(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

Lake City Secondary School Grade 7 Outdoor Education students Geordi Wonnacott (from left), Brody Brook, James Wilker, Ali Calabrese and Kaitlyn Brown explore a burned area at the top end of the trails at Bull Mountain Ski Area last year as part of the Williams Lake Cross Country Ski Club’s ski school program. (Martin Kruus photo)
Ski school glides to successful year at Bull Mountain

Avah Akeson, also in grade seven, said that just having the opportunity to ski was really fun

Staff-Sgt. Svend Nielsen, with the 100 Mile House RCMP. (Melissa Smalley - 100 Mile Free Press)
14-year-old boy killed in serious ATV crash near 100 Mile House

Youth was travelling with a group of peers when the incident occurred Friday

100 Mile RCMP dealing with serious accident at Highway 97 near 103 Mile (file photo)
Man, in distress, arrested after altercation with RCMP members in Lone Butte

The man is currently at the hospital with no pending charges

Scout Island Nature Centre. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
LETTER: Scout Island causeway important riparian habitat

We appreciate this opportunity to clarify how Scout Island Nature Centre lands is managed

North Okanagan business Hytec Kohler set up a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Spallumcheen plant Friday, May 14. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
More than half of eligible adults in Interior Health vaccinated

Over 365,000 vaccine doses have been administered throughout the Interior Health region

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Chilliwack’s Kile Brown, performing as drag queen Hailey Adler, dances and lip syncs in front of hundreds of people during the inaugural Chilliwack Pride Barbecue at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre on Aug. 24, 2019. Monday, May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of May 16 to 22

International Day Against Homophobia, Talk Like Yoda Day, Sea Monkey Day all coming up this week

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Steven Shearer, <em>Untitled. </em>(Dennis Ha/Courtesy of Steven Shearer)
Vancouver photographer’s billboards taken down after complaints about being ‘disturbing’

‘Context is everything’ when it comes to understanding these images, says visual art professor Catherine Heard

Trina Hunt's remains were found in the Hope area on March 29. Her family is asking the public to think back to the weekend prior to when she went missing. (Photo courtesy of IHIT.)
Cousin of missing woman found in Hope says she won’t have closure until death is solved

Trina Hunt’s family urges Hope residents to check dashcam, photos to help find her killer

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Most Read