RISE Against Racism targets anti-Indigenous hatred in our healthcare system

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The death of Joyce Echaquan, a 37-year-old Indigenous Canadian in a Quebec hospital, shortly after she recorded a Facebook Live that showed her screaming in distress and healthcare workers abusing her, was the catalyst for a campaign campaign targeting anti-Indigenous racism. in our health system.

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RISE Against Racism, which will officially launch later this year, is an initiative created by the First Nations Health Managers Association, in partnership with the First Peoples Wellness Circle and the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation.

The campaign, said one of its main organizers, follows the death of Echaquan on September 28, 2020 at the Center hospitalier de Lanaudière in Saint-Charles-Borromée, Quebec. Echaquan was admitted to hospital with stomach pain two days before her death. She was subdued and given morphine, despite her fears that she was allergic to it. She broadcast live on September 28, during which at least two hospital workers could be heard insulting and berating her in French. She died later that day. Her family later said she was allergic to morphine. A nurse and a male nurse were later discharged from the hospital.

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“You say the words very delicately that we need to come back to remember where we are in 2022,” said Marion Crowe, CEO of the First Nations Health Managers Association and vice chair of the board of governors of the Center for Health Research. Ottawa Hospital. Institute.

Crowe said Echaquan’s very tragic and public death is unfortunately not the first time such a tragedy involving an Indigenous Canadian has unfolded in public.

“We all know of the tragic death of Brian Sinclair, who was literally passed over to death in Winnipeg in a hospital,” Crowe said. On September 21, 2008, Sinclair waited 34 hours for medical attention at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Center and died while waiting. He had developed rigor mortis while the staff was caring for him. “Joyce Echaquan’s story outside of Quebec is really what started the dialogue” about the need for real change, Crowe said.

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Several meetings with Indigenous partners and health officials resulted in a consensus: “We have a lot of work to do,” Crowe said.

“When someone is brave enough to film themselves in a hospital like Joyce did, and we saw the horrific ways she was treated by those we trust the most – the healthcare workers who look after of us in our greatest times of need — that says a lot,” Crowe said. “And that’s an example that was just captured on video.”

RISE Against Racism will focus on hospitals, healthcare providers, health authorities and medical schools with the aim of changing biases and problematic perceptions by promoting mutual respect, understanding and empathy towards people. natives seeking health services, according to a campaign press release. Along with print marketing, the campaign will also produce a series of television interviews, radio interviews and advertisements, as well as public service messages aimed at communities informing them of the resources available.

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“I saw the racism, I felt the racism first hand,” Crowe said. “I can be present in a hospital and until they see this R on my health card in Saskatchewan, saying I’m registered, you can see the transition of people’s faces. I look white, but I’m First Nations and they don’t know it until they get that health card – and the difference between day and night is excruciating.

Crowe, who is from Piapot First Nation in Saskatchewan, said the lack of education about Indigenous history and studies across Canada is partly to blame for such a campaign even being necessary. Atrocious stories in the media shouldn’t be enough to raise awareness and educate, she said.

“There are a number of things that really drove these horror stories that the rest of the population just doesn’t understand or doesn’t understand because we didn’t learn it in school,” he said. she declared. “The education system has really failed to tell the story and the rich culture that existed before colonialism and that first point of contact. And I think it’s an epic failure.

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“It’s a lack of education and awareness and that’s why we created the RISE Against Racism campaign,” Crowe said. “That’s all we heard in the national dialogues on anti-Indigenous racism in Canada’s health care system.

Crowe said she envisions a national health system based on equality “in which we can walk two worlds, where we have spaces where we can access Western medicine, but also where we can create a safe space and empowering indigenous people to practice their health teachings as well, whether it’s creating spaces for purification, lands for ceremonies, bringing back indigenous languages,” she said, adding that the RISE campaign Against Racism will create a space where racism can be reported.

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Crowe sent a very clear message to those affected, to those who can help, and to those responsible for inequity in the Canadian healthcare system.

To those affected by racism in our health care system, she said, “Canada has heard. Through various reports, the (Truth and Reconciliation Commission report), reports on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, there are more reports than we can count, but now is the time to to act. I’m hopeful for the first time in a long time that we’re going to move the measuring needle and increase the number of years we live less than the rest of the population because of all the health inequities . I say to everyone, you have to report it, we have to document it. We won’t be able to deliver metrics and effectively change systems without everyone involved. »

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Crowe acknowledged Canada’s efforts to create dedicated resources for Indigenous Canadians.

“I’m looking at the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations of Saskatchewan, which is creating an ombudsman position for anti-Indigenous racism. I look at the new president-elect of the Canadian Medical Association, Dr. Alika Lafontaine, our very first indigenous president of the CMA, who has created a whole system for reporting racism. I think we’re in a time where we went from angry Indians knocking on the door to standing up at the table… We’re at tables now, and not being chips. Let’s use our voice to advocate for the services we desperately need to change the outcome.

To non-Indigenous Canadians, especially those who may witness inequities within our health care institutions: “Stand up! if you see something, say something. Stand up against racism. Be allies in the process. Also, do your due diligence on personal education.

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And to those responsible for the mistreatment or hatred of Indigenous patients: “To those who are in hospitals, health authorities, any type of health organization providing services to Indigenous patients, I would say please understand cultural competence and cultural safety. We need to be able to provide health services in a cultural humility type way where we understand the population, that this specific population has been underserved, underresourced and has greater health inequities. It is on their backs that we (get) the privilege of thriving on Turtle Island. We also owe it to all patients to provide equal, fair and quality services.

Jan Murphy is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works for the Belleville Intelligencer. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

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