(Pixabay)

(Pixabay)

Wave of racist emails ‘unleashed’ on B.C. researchers investigating racism in health care

The team has received close to 600 calls and emails since the investigation started in July

By Bayleigh Marelj, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse

The executive director of a study investigating racism in health care says she and her colleagues have been on the receiving end of racist and degrading emails.

News of the derogatory messages came during a virtual town hall meeting on Oct. 13, during which director Harmony Johnson and her team gave community members an update on B.C.’s Addressing Racism investigation.

“As an investigation team, we’ve been bearing the brunt of a huge wave of racism that has been unleashed upon us directly as a result of us doing this work,” Johnson said.

“This type of work where you are actively appointed to study an issue that people feel threatened by leads to pretty egregious racism…,”

Former Health Care Minister Adrian Dix commissioned the investigation in June after allegations surfaced in news reports that emergency room staff had been playing a “game” to guess the blood-alcohol level of Indigenous patients admitted to emergency rooms.

READ MORE: B.C. launches investigation into allegations of racist blood-alcohol guessing game in ER

In an interview after the meeting, the study’s communications director, Jeff Rud, said the emails were from people who seem to believe that there isn’t any systemic racism in the province’s health care system.

“There is some segment of the population that denies that it exists,” Rud says. Rud said he could not release more details of the emails because all email submissions to the team are confidential.

However, Rud, who also works in Victoria for the Representative for Children and Youth, says the impact of the “pushback” seen in the emails is a far cry from the impact that systemic racism has on Indigenous people and people of colour.

“These emails are minor things compared to the people in the system that are experiencing racism…they’re in a vulnerable position,” Rud says.

When speaking at the town hall both Johnson and Rud said the racism is real and they’re seeing it in their research. Preliminary survey results are showing that while many healthcare workers believe racism exists in the system, there’s “a big chunk” of them that say it doesn’t, Rud said.

Johnson said racism against Indigenous people is systemic because our public institutions were created in the context of colonialism.

Because “all of our systems are founded upon a foundation of colonialism,” the effects of systemic racism heavily impact Indigenous people.

“Our lands and territories were expropriated on the basis of false stereotypes about who we are.”“What’s happening as a result of all of these forms of racism is that Indigenous peoples are bearing too much of the burden.”

VIDEO: Provinces need to address racism in the health-care system, Trudeau says

The investigation, which focuses on Indigenous-specific discrimination, has an email address and a 1-800 number so that members of the public can share their experiences of racism while accessing health care.

Johnson said her team has received close to 600 calls and emails since the investigation started in July.

They have also received more than 2,700 survey responses from Indigenous community members and more than 5,000 survey responses from health care providers.

Concerns raised by survey participants include the need for more B.C. First Nations leadership in the health care system, the threat of recrimination for whistleblowers, and the need for more transparent and enhanced data collection and review.

“We need to create clear standards that articulate what high-quality care looks like and then we need to be held accountable to those standards,” Johnson said. “We need .125a.375 strong, integrated, comprehensive approach. Right now lots of good activity happening appears to be happening largely in disconnected pockets.”

Johnson stated that the context of the investigation in British Columbia is unique due to the work that Indigenous people have done in the province as well as the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Aside from survey data, the investigation is also looking at the province’s existing health care data.

The team is led by two Indigenous women, Johnson alongside Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the former B.C. representative for Children and Youth. They’re taking an anti-racist approach to the investigation. The team includes data analysts and people with experience conducting detailed investigations.Rud says the goal of the investigation is to come up with a set of recommendations that will improve the health care system for Indigenous people and eliminate the effects of racism.

The project is operating at an arm’s length from the government and does not have the power to enforce its recommendations.

Though there have been prior inquiries into racism in health care, according to Johnson this investigation aims to “tie together Indigenous methodologies, and ways of expressing evidence, with Western ways” for the first time.

“There’s strong leadership that we’ve seen from all parts of the system,” says Johnson. “What we have to do is bridge the gap between that intention, the awareness of the problem to change in behaviour and practice throughout the system.”

The team is set to present the report by December 31, 2020.

Meanwhile, a few days after the B.C. town hall, on Oct. 16 several federal government ministers held what they called an “emergency meeting” to hear from patients and health care workers about their experiences of racism in the Canadian health care system. The meeting came less than two weeks after nation-wide protests against the treatment and death of Joyce Echaquan.

READ MORE: Joyce Echaquan’s death highlights systemic racism in health care, experts say


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

HealthcareRacial injusticeracism

Just Posted

Ashcroft hospital emergency closed sign, 2016. Photo credit: Barbara Roden
Ashcroft Hospital emergency department closed this weekend

Closure due to unexpected limited physician availabiliy, says Interior Health

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

Heidi Roy of the Cariboo Jade Shop in Cache Creek with the 3,000 jade boulder, which is now on secure display inside the shop. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Massive jade boulder returns to Cache Creek store six months after daring heist

The 3,000-pound boulder was stolen on Dec. 19, 2020 and found abandoned in the bush a week later

Dr. Albert de Villiers, chief medical health officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
Child sex crimes charges against Interior’s top doc won’t impact pandemic response: Dix

Dr. Albert de Villiers is charged with sexual assault and sexual interference

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read