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“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” ~~ John G. Diefenbaker

ADAM OLSEN -- Investigation into racism in BC’s health care system launched

Indigenous, Black and other people of colour in British Columbia and Canada face systemic racism everyday. Following calls to address the deeply entrenched problem in policing, the provincial government recently established a committee to oversee the reform of the Police Act.


A couple of weeks ago Hon. Adrian Dix announced that allegations of racist behaviour in emergency rooms had come to the attention of the Health Ministry. He highlighted a "game" where public health providers tried to guess the blood alcohol level of Indigenous patients.


Minister Dix immediately appointed former B.C. youth advocate Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond to investigate the extent of the problem within healthcare.


Yesterday, Turpel-Lafond provided the details of her team and their investigation. I am thankful that Turpel-Lafond agreed to lead this important work. Based on her previous track record, I have confidence that she will lead a professional and confidential process that will provide people a safe and secure place to share their experiences.


I'm convinced she will not be shy in delivering a thorough investigation with solid recommendations.


When I learned that one of the emergency rooms potentially involved in these allegations was the Saanich Peninsula Hospital, I immediately reached out to Indigenous and healthcare leaders in our community. In addition, I met with Minister Dix.


It is important that the investigation be provided the space it needs, but there are potentially life-threatening consequences with the public naming of the hospital. As a result, Island Health must have an immediate response of both words and actions to reassure Indigenous people that they are safe attending to their emergent healthcare needs in the meantime.


I had a follow-up meeting with Minister Dix and also senior executives at Island Health. The health authority has a responsibility to ensure our communities know there is accountability from those working in the emergency room all the way to their highest offices.

It is clear that they must make cultural safety training a higher priority and that they are ensuring their human resource policies are up to date.


I know there are many incredible, thoughtful, loving people working in our hospital and I will continue to work on this issue compassionately. However, I will also continue to keep up the pressure on the institution to ensure that when people present at a local emergency room, they are confident their health needs will be addressed and they will not be victim of the behaviour highlighted in the recent reports.


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