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Open Letter from Carrier Sekani Tribal Council calls for northern B.C. healthcare task force

Tribal Chief Mina Holmes believes certain issues ‘require action now’
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An empty hospital room. (via File photo)

First Nation bands in the Prince George and surrounding areas are calling on the federal government to respond to the treatment of Indigenous patients in B.C.’s health care system.

The Carrier Sekani Tribal Council (CSTC) says a task force should also be separate for northern B.C. in order to mitigate any systematic racism found in regional hospitals

The issue has come to light since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as people were being admitted for the virus, mixed in with other patients needing treatment for other illnesses.

The following open letter was sent to Ottawa and signed by CSTC Tribal Chief Mina Holmes:

Dear Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown Indigenous Relations,

Following the creation of a Hamilton task force to improve healthcare for Indigenous people in response to Atikemakw woman Joyce Echaquan, Carrier Sekani Tribal Council is calling on your Ministry for the creation of a similar task force here in northern B.C.

On Sept. 28 this year, 37-year-old Atikamekw woman Joyce Echaquan livestreamed audio on her phone to Facebook as two healthcare workers taunted her with unspeakable words in Echaquan’s last living moments. This has led to the creation of a local task force to address inequities in healthcare for Indigenous people.

While the events that led to the Hamilton task force are geographically distant, they are all too familiar to members of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council nations who disproportionately face racism and discrimination when accessing healthcare. Indigenous people living on and off reserve in northern B.C. constantly face this kind of racism and cruelty and CSTC leadership bears witness to these stories as members bring their complaints forward.

This is a systemic issue across Canada and CSTC acknowledges that a province-wide inquiry into Indigenous-specific racism in B.C.’s healthcare system is underway, however CSTC member nations require action now.  Indigenous people living in this region should not have to feel intimidaƚed or excluded from B.C.’s healthcare system when they are at their most vulnerable. As recognized in the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), Indigenous peoples have the right to access all social and health services without discrimination. Further to that, as stated in UNDRIP, Indigenous individuals have an equal right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health.

CSTC is calling on you to create an Indigenous-led task force that will mobilize northern B.C. hospitals to address inequities in care for Indigenous people, including our member nations. This is not a problem that Indigenous people should have to face individually as they seek the medical care they are entitled to, but a systemic barrier to healthcare equality and the responsibility of the Ministry of Crown Indigenous Relations in the spirit of reconciliation and in keeping with your mandate to improve government capacity to respond to the unique realities of Indigenous Peoples.