(OTTAWA, January 27) – Racism in healthcare is a problem affecting all Indigenous people, regardless of their sex, and Indigenous women should not be left on the sidelines of the discussions, Lorraine Whitman, the President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), said Wednesday.
NWAC is pleased to have been asked to deliver brief remarks on Thursday of this week, the second day of a two-day meeting at which the issue of anti-Indigenous racism in Canada’s healthcare systems will be addressed by federal, provincial, and territorial governments as well as representatives of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit.
But NWAC, which represents Indigenous women across this country and has led the effort to bring the scourge of racism in healthcare to public attention, is not being permitted to give more broadly based opening remarks Wednesday, along with other male-led National Indigenous Organizations.
Had NWAC been permitted to speak at the meeting’s opening, said Ms. Whitman “we would have explained that Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse persons are disproportionately affected by systemic racism and violence in healthcare.“ Instead, NWAC’s remarks the following day will be confined to the two narrower questions put by the government around “identifying diversity and intersectionality actions”.
The problem of racism in healthcare delivery moved to the forefront of national consciousness last year when Canadians heard the horrific and discriminatory remarks directed at Joyce Echaquan, an Indigenous woman, as she lay in her deathbed at a hospital in Quebec.
“It is Indigenous women who have been subjected to forced sterilizations. It is Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people who have been the targets of violence that a National Inquiry found to be a genocide, and which forces many of us to seek medical treatment,” said Ms. Whitman.
“It is a problem to which we, at NWAC, have given much thought because it so profoundly affects our members,” she said. “We will be offering some ideas about ways to tackle racism in healthcare settings during the five minutes we have been allotted at the meeting on Thursday. But we would like the government to demonstrate that it is just as interested in hearing the voices of Indigenous women on this issue as it is in hearing the voices of Indigenous men.”
The experiences of Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse persons in the healthcare system are not the same as those of men. Success in defeating racism depends on our ability to recognize each other as inextricably linked partners in this task.