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For immediate release
January 26, 2021
Treaty Five Territory, Thompson, MB – Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc. and Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin (KIM) Inc. are urging the provincial and federal governments to take urgent steps to reduce and eventually eliminate anti-Indigenous racism in health care systems in Manitoba and Canada.
Staff from MKO and KIM are taking part in a national online event called “Addressing Anti-Indigenous Racism in Canada’s Health Care Systems” on January 27 and 28, 2021. This meeting aims to bring together federal, provincial, and territorial governments, First Nations, Inuit, Métis Nation and health system partners to discuss and confirm actions planned and underway to address anti-Indigenous racism in Canada’s health care systems.
“It is essential these dialogues are happening across the country this week. Anti-Indigenous racism is all too real,” shared Grand Chief Garrison Settee. “I want to commend all of the strong people who come forward to share their stories with my office about the poor treatment they receive when trying to access medical treatment within both federally and provincially run health facilities. It is very difficult for people to share these types of stories and we can only work towards reconciliation when we can acknowledge this insidious racism is still happening. This week I will be looking to our provincial health Minister as well as the federal Ministers responsible for Indigenous health services to clearly outline the concrete actions they plan to take to eliminate anti-Indigenous racism in the Province of Manitoba.”
“Indigenous-specific racism in the health care system is a persistent issue that absolutely must be addressed on multiple levels,” stated Dr. Barry Lavallee, Chief Executive Officer of KIM. “Our health transformation work includes a commitment to leading the way in addressing the racism that’s embedded throughout many systems connected to health care. While many people are now aware of what happened to the late Joyce Echaquan in Quebec, it is also important to know that this same racism is alive and well right here in Manitoba. My office regularly receives complaints that are extremely troublesome.
“The North has always been neglected in some aspect when it comes to health services. It is a struggle to even get full nursing staff and to have doctors in South Indian Lake on a regular basis. These are long standing issues that really need to be moving forward and fully addressed. We deserve a lot better than we have been treated in getting these services for our First Nations. It’s time to really start looking at this and all the racism that has gone on. We often see this issue as us not being recognized as people who have the same needs as any other individual on this Earth,” said Chief Shirley Ducharme of the O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation.
“It’s just blatant racism we are encountering in our First Nation. With the federal government, there is a culture of acceptance in how First Nations people have been treated, this is shown in things like residential schools and the use of Indian agents in the past. If nurses do something wrong, the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch would take that nurse from our First Nation and they would be put into another one without any repercussions for their actions,” shared Councillor Brian Wood of the O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation, who shared a story at MKO’s press conference today about the negative and painful experience his wife Carol went through when trying to access medical care in their home community on January 11, 2021.
“FNIHB has a habit of recycling incompetent health care providers throughout First Nations,” continued Councillor Wood. “Has FNIHB ever reported any of their nurses to the College of Nurses for negligence? If the answer is ‘no,’ we need to be asking, why not? This is a pattern that needs to be addressed.”
MKO and KIM are working to address anti-Indigenous racism within Manitoba’s health care systems. Any First Nations or Inuit who are having issues with accessing medical systems in a culturally safe way may contact us for advocacy assistance. Reach out to MKO’s Client Navigator Bernice Thorassie at [email protected] or by phone at:
Toll-free number: 1-800-442-0488
Direct line: 204-677-1618