Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller participates in a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller participates in a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Every leader must work to rid health-care system of anti-Indigenous racism: Miller

Miller said Indigenous people must be prioritized in COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Canadians expect concrete measures from politicians to ensure everyone — Indigenous people included — has access to first-class medical treatment, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said ahead of a meeting on systemic racism in the health system.

“This is a jurisdiction (that) is jealously guarded by provinces, but when it comes to issues like racism, systemic racism, discrimination, every leader in this country has a leadership role to play in calling it out and getting rid of it,” Miller told a news conference Wednesday.

“We know, going into the meeting, that there is systemic racism in the health-care system in every province and in every territory.”

First Nations, Métis and Inuit leaders and representatives along with four federal cabinet ministers are taking part in the two-day virtual meeting to discuss anti-Indigenous racism in the health-care system.

Last fall, Miller convened an urgent meeting on the issue after Joyce Echaquan, a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman, died in hospital in September in Joliette, Que., after she filmed staff making derogatory comments about her. The video was shared around the world.

The second meeting is meant to focus on specific steps to eliminate racism in the health-care system and what provincial and territorial governments are doing to address it. Miller said he asked participants at the last meeting to think about possible solutions.

Miller said jurisdictional squabbles between the federal government and the provinces and territories can also result in inequitable treatment.

“This is what we talk about when we talk about outcomes and systemic racism,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected Indigenous communities disproportionately, Miller said. The latest figures from Indigenous Services Canada show that as of Tuesday, there have been 15,894 cases of COVID-19, including 144 deaths, in First Nations communities.

“We know that Indigenous populations — we have the numbers, we have the casualties to prove it — are three-and-a-half times, to five times, more vulnerable to COVID,” he said.

Miller said Indigenous people living on reserves, but also those in urban areas, must be prioritized in the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said Indigenous communities are vulnerable to COVID-19 because they don’t have access to decent health care.

Some are hundreds or thousands of kilometres away from the nearest medical centre and many First Nations communities still don’t have access to clean drinking water.

“(This) one of the reasons why it’s so vitally important to get the vaccine to these communities,” Singh said.

“There’s a lot that needs to be done but basic human rights and decency for the First People of this land include drinking water, access to education and health care.”

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout prioritize people who live and work in long-term care homes, people over the age of 80, front-line health workers, and adults in Indigenous communities where an outbreak can be particularly harmful and hard to manage.

The recommendations also note that racialized and marginalized people can be disproportionately affected by COVID-19. “These populations may be considered for immunization concurrent with remote and isolated Indigenous communities if feasibly identified within jurisdictions, understanding that these are traditionally hardly reached populations for immunization programs,” the committee states in its guidelines.

Dr. Tom Wong, chief medical officer of public health at Indigenous Services Canada, said there are large groups of underserved Indigenous populations in urban centres and they shouldn’t be forgotten.

“There are extensive discussions right now in place in order to look at how provinces can be supported to reach out to the unserved, underserved population,” he said.

Wong said the federal government is supporting a vaccine program targeting the underserved homeless population in Montreal.

“We know that provinces and territories need the help and the public health officials within the federal government are here to help.”

———

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

HealthcareIndigenousracism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Laketown Ranch to welcome campers this summer

Sunfest site will provide camping amenities between May and September

‘I chose my children’s breakfasts purely based on what dishes would fit best into the dishwasher.’ (Bobbi Venier photo)
Sarah Simpson Column: Delayed gratification and the benefits of efficiency

I was driving with just my daughter the other day and we… Continue reading

Wayne Allen's graduation photo from Chemainus Secondary School. (Photo submitted)
Brother charged with murder in Chemainus teenager’s Ontario death

Jesse James Allen stands accused in the death of Wayne Allen, a 2020 Chemainus Secondary grad

The frequent disruptions to water service in Chemainus are expected to be a lot less after North Cowichan replaces the Smiley Road water main. (File photo)
Smiley Road water main in Chemainus to be replaced

$890,000 project expected to be completed this spring

Cowichan Tribes open up vaccinations for members who are 40 and older. (File photo)
Cowichan Tribes opens up vaccinations for members 18 and older

Vaccination sessions to be held over weekend

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

A crossover utility vehicle smashed through the front of a business on Bowen Road on Friday evening. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Vehicle smashes all the way inside business in Nanaimo

No serious injuries reported after incident at Venue Financial Centres on Friday

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

Most Read