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B.C. launches investigation into allegations of racism in health care

An investigation has formally been launched after Adrian Dix, Minister of Health appointed a former judge to look into allegations of Indigenous-specific racism in B.C.’s healthcare system on June 19th.

The investigation was launched on Thursday, July 9th after Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the independent investigator assembled a team to look into the impacts of racism in B.C.’s healthcare system.

“What we want to gauge through this investigation is the range and extent of that racism, both individual and systemic and how it affects the quality of healthcare for indigenous people in this province,” said Turpel-Lafond.

Turpel-Lafond added that the end goal of the investigation is to make recommendations on how to address racism in the health care system.

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Currently, Turpel-Lafond and her team are involved in a focus investigation looking into the specific allegations about a game that was played in emergency rooms in which staff would allegedly guess the blood alcohol content of indigenous patients.

“These are obviously very serious allegations and an egregious example of racism that demeans and indigenous people and their health,” said Turpel-Lafond. “Our investigation will get to the bottom of these troubling allegations.”

Turpel-Lafond went on to point out that the investigation is not about shaming any particular individuals as a result of their findings.

“Blaming and shaming is something that indigenous people have experienced, and we are certainly not in the position where we would want to reflect that back, that’s not the healing process, it’s not a truth-telling process,” explained Turpel-Lafond. I can say, though, if we do find that there have been violations of the criminal code or the standards of health professions and health professional bodies, I will report that to the appropriate authorities.”

So far, according to Turpel-Lafond, healthcare bodies that overlook doctors, nurses and other health workers in B.C. have been supportive of the investigation.

As well, Turpel-Lafond and the investigation team has received many personal anecdotes prom people and are looking for more from those who wish to share their perspective. Turpel-Lafond said this information will be kept confidential wither its from patients or healthcare professionals.

“The last thing we want to do is discourage people from using the health care system. One of the important messages I want to send out today is that you should not hesitate to seek the healthcare you made need if you are an indigenous person in British Columbia,” said Turpel-Lafond. “Do not hold back in fear, you must seek the support you need during this time when there are very significant healthcare crises.”

A survey and website have been launched which will allow indigenous people to report on their experiences with healthcare.

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