(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

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

Just Posted

West Shore RCMP pulled over a 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee on Nov. 23 after noting that it didn’t appear safe for the road. (West Shore RCMP)
West Shore RCMP pull over vehicle held together by tape and cargo strap

RCMP deemed the vehicle unsafe for the road and had it towed away

The Vancouver Island Crisis Society has seen a five per cent rise in call volumes compared to this time last year. (Black Press Media file photo)
Winter blues a concern for Vancouver Islanders during COVID-19 Christmas season

Statistics show British Columbians anticipate worsening mental health

Jason Soukochoff is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant, say Victoria police. (Courtesy VicPD)
Victoria police seek man with violent criminal history against elderly

Jason Soukochoff wanted on Canada-wide warrant for parole violations

Sooke parks staff are all smiles as they welcome the opportunity to bring the holiday spirit to the community with the hanging of festive décor on light standards. (Contributed - District of Sooke)
Sooke lighting up holiday spirit

Sooke Road roundabout lights up Dec. 1

The growing field lacrosse program at Royal Bay Secondary has produced a number of scholarships for its players to American universities, starting in the fall 2021. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
Five Royal Bay students sign Lacrosse scholarships at U.S. universities

“It’s a village that raises these kids,” says lacrosse coach

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Nov. 24

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(AP Photo/Haven Daley)
POLL: Do you think the current COVID-19 restrictions should continue beyond Dec. 7?

One week into the new restrictions to curtail the spread of the… Continue reading

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Okanagan campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. woman loses appeal to have second child by using late husband’s sperm

Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits the removal of human reproductive material from a donor without consent

An excavator was stolen from a rural property south of Nanaimo this month, say police. (Photos submitted)
Excavator stolen from property south of Nanaimo

Bobcat Mini believed to have been stolen between Nov. 12-14, say RCMP

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
B.C. mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

B.C. projects targeting the restoration of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser and Columbia Watersheds will share in $10.9 million of federal funding to protect species at risk. (Kenny Regan photo)
13 projects protecting B.C. aquatic species at risk receive $11 million in federal funding

Salmon and marine mammals expected to benefit from ecosystem-based approach

Most Read