(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

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 80+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

(File photo)
PQB crime report: Thieves pilfer trailer, camera, tools, cigarettes and cleaning supplies

Parksville, Nanoose Bay feature prominently among 226 complaints to Oceanside RCMP

Mary Ellen Campbell, president of the Parksville Museum, visits the PQB News/VI Free Daily studio. (Peter McCully photo)
PQBeat: A chat with Parksville Museum president Mary Ellen Campbell

Podcast: Talk includes plans for 2021, dealing with COVID-19 and more

Eaglecrest Golf Club plans to operate as a nine-hole course starting April 1. (Eaglecrest Facebook photo)
Eaglecrest Golf Club in Qualicum Beach still plans to have course layout reduced to 9 holes

Town council continues to negotiate lease for 18-hole operation

A rendering of a proposed housing development located across from the beachfront in Qualicum Beach. (Submitted photo)
Multi-residential development planned across from Qualicum Beach waterfront

Residents raise variety of concerns about project

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Churches, including Langley’s Riverside Calvary Church, are challenging the regulations barring them from holding in-person worship services during COVID-19. (Langley Advance Times file)
Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hills using a homemade trip camera. Vancouver Island is home to approximately 800 cougars, which makes up about a quarter of the total population in B.C. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hill using a homemade trip camera. Schroyen presents Animal Signs: The Essence of Animal Communication on Nov. 30. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Declining Vancouver Island cougar populations linked to wolves

Large carnivore specialist says human development still plays biggest role on cougar numbers

Police have identified the vehicle involved in the Feb. 14 hit-and-run in Chemainus and are continuing to investigate. (Black Press Media files)
Police seize and identify suspect vehicle in hit-and-run

Investigation into death expected to be lengthy and involved

(Black Press file photo)
Child in critical condition, homicide investigators probe incident near Agassiz

The child was transported to hospital but is not expected to survive

Most Read