Alberta to address anti-Indigenous racism in provincial healthcare system

Thursday, October 19th, 2023 10:42am


Image Caption

Tyler White, CEO of Siksika Health Services


“We call on the federal government to look at what is being done here in Alberta … to modernize their own approach and their important role and responsibility in advancing equitable health care for Indigenous people in Alberta and across Canada.” — Dr. Tyler White, CEO of Siksika Health Services
By Shari Narine
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Alberta government has announced the creation of an Indigenous patients’ complaints investigator as one of its steps to improve health care for First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in the province.

“Many Indigenous patients and families do not access the healthcare system because they do not trust it and because they face language barriers and experience racism,” said Health Minister Adriana LaGrange on Oct. 18 as she announced changes her government will make to strengthen the primary healthcare system.

The complaints process, which involves an investigator to investigate incidences of racism and a roster of Elders to provide culturally safe support to Indigenous patients throughout the complaint process, is one of a number of immediate goals set out through the Modernizing Alberta’s Primary Health Care System (MAPS) initiative. That initiative included a separate focus on Indigenous health care, which was co-chaired by Dr. Tyler White, CEO for Siksika Health Services.

Racism against Indigenous people in Alberta's healthcare system is not acceptable and must be addressed immediately,” said White.

Just last month, the Siksika Nation announced it had filed a human rights complaint against Alberta Health Services and Strathmore District Health Services in the death of one of its members.

The complaint alleged that anti-Indigenous discrimination and racism at the Strathmore hospital in southern Alberta had resulted in Myra Crow Chief not being treated for her medical condition when she arrived via ambulance in incredible pain. A few days later, she died.

See our story here:…

White announced three other immediate measures under MAPS: the creation of an Indigenous health division within Alberta Health; creating a $20 million fund for Indigenous communities to design and deliver innovative primary healthcare services and projects; and a community-based Indigenous patient navigator program to support Indigenous peoples throughout their healthcare journey.

The Indigenous primary healthcare advisory panel outlined 22 overarching recommendations in its 137-page report, Honouring Our Roots: Growing together towards a culturally safe, wholistic primary health care system for Indigenous peoples. Read the report here.

Recommendations that White referred to as “meaningful and practical” were grouped into five categories: culturally safe and appropriate care; access; integration; quality; and partnering with Indigenous peoples.

White stressed that the best solutions exist within Indigenous communities, which could tailor those solutions to meet their unique needs and priorities.

The Indigenous advisory panel, along with the wider provincial strategic advisory panel, were created in fall 2022 and made recommendations to the government this past spring.

The Indigenous advisory panel was co-chaired by White and Kathy Lepine of the Elizabeth Métis Settlement and consisted of 10 other health-related members from First Nations, the Métis Nation of Alberta, and Métis settlements. It also included two representatives from First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, Alberta Region, Indigenous Services Canada.

“We call on the federal government to look at what is being done here in Alberta through the work of Alberta's strategic advisory panel and the Indigenous primary healthcare advisory panel to modernize their own approach and their important role and responsibility in advancing equitable health care for Indigenous people in Alberta and across Canada,” said White.

LaGrange said the two panels were tasked with outlining immediate, intermediate and long-term recommendations.

While she acknowledged the immediate recommendations that were to be met, she did not provide a timeframe as to when they would be met, nor did she address the costs involved in implementing the recommendations or from where the funding would come.

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