"Our task is to address the specific incidents that have been reported, as well as to gauge the levels of systemic and individual racism that Indigenous peoples face when using the health care system in general." - Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond
An independent investigation into Indigenous-specific racism in British Columbia's health care system was launched on July 9, 2020, by former judge and provincial child advocate Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond.
In a statement Turpel-Lafond said, "Our task is to address the specific incidents that have been reported, as well as to gauge the levels of systemic and individual racism that Indigenous peoples face when using the health care system in general. I'm glad that the minister called for this independent investigation. Based on the emails, calls and stories we have received so far, it is very much needed."
She is calling on patients, families, doctors and nurses to come forward with their stories. Allegations involving emergency room staff playing a game to guess patients' blood-alcohol level are disturbing but health professionals should not fear retribution for providing information.
Turpel-Lafond says Indigenous people seeking care are often asked irrelevant questions about whether they are intoxicated or addicted to substances.
She has assembled an investigative team that includes Indigenous professionals with clinical experience and plans to issue an initial report in a few months.
However, Turpel-Lafond says CEOs of health authorities should immediately address allegations of racism and she'll ask those who didn't to explain themselves.
She is urging Indigenous people to complete a confidential survey of their experiences and says anyone with experience or knowledge of racism could provide information through email or a 1-800 number.
In addition to the public submissions, the investigation team plans to survey a wide range of workers in the health care system.