Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller participates in a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller participates in a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Every leader must work to rid health-care system of anti-Indigenous racism: Miller

Miller said Indigenous people must be prioritized in COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Canadians expect concrete measures from politicians to ensure everyone — Indigenous people included — has access to first-class medical treatment, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said ahead of a meeting on systemic racism in the health system.

“This is a jurisdiction (that) is jealously guarded by provinces, but when it comes to issues like racism, systemic racism, discrimination, every leader in this country has a leadership role to play in calling it out and getting rid of it,” Miller told a news conference Wednesday.

“We know, going into the meeting, that there is systemic racism in the health-care system in every province and in every territory.”

First Nations, Métis and Inuit leaders and representatives along with four federal cabinet ministers are taking part in the two-day virtual meeting to discuss anti-Indigenous racism in the health-care system.

Last fall, Miller convened an urgent meeting on the issue after Joyce Echaquan, a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman, died in hospital in September in Joliette, Que., after she filmed staff making derogatory comments about her. The video was shared around the world.

The second meeting is meant to focus on specific steps to eliminate racism in the health-care system and what provincial and territorial governments are doing to address it. Miller said he asked participants at the last meeting to think about possible solutions.

Miller said jurisdictional squabbles between the federal government and the provinces and territories can also result in inequitable treatment.

“This is what we talk about when we talk about outcomes and systemic racism,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected Indigenous communities disproportionately, Miller said. The latest figures from Indigenous Services Canada show that as of Tuesday, there have been 15,894 cases of COVID-19, including 144 deaths, in First Nations communities.

“We know that Indigenous populations — we have the numbers, we have the casualties to prove it — are three-and-a-half times, to five times, more vulnerable to COVID,” he said.

Miller said Indigenous people living on reserves, but also those in urban areas, must be prioritized in the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said Indigenous communities are vulnerable to COVID-19 because they don’t have access to decent health care.

Some are hundreds or thousands of kilometres away from the nearest medical centre and many First Nations communities still don’t have access to clean drinking water.

“(This) one of the reasons why it’s so vitally important to get the vaccine to these communities,” Singh said.

“There’s a lot that needs to be done but basic human rights and decency for the First People of this land include drinking water, access to education and health care.”

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout prioritize people who live and work in long-term care homes, people over the age of 80, front-line health workers, and adults in Indigenous communities where an outbreak can be particularly harmful and hard to manage.

The recommendations also note that racialized and marginalized people can be disproportionately affected by COVID-19. “These populations may be considered for immunization concurrent with remote and isolated Indigenous communities if feasibly identified within jurisdictions, understanding that these are traditionally hardly reached populations for immunization programs,” the committee states in its guidelines.

Dr. Tom Wong, chief medical officer of public health at Indigenous Services Canada, said there are large groups of underserved Indigenous populations in urban centres and they shouldn’t be forgotten.

“There are extensive discussions right now in place in order to look at how provinces can be supported to reach out to the unserved, underserved population,” he said.

Wong said the federal government is supporting a vaccine program targeting the underserved homeless population in Montreal.

“We know that provinces and territories need the help and the public health officials within the federal government are here to help.”

———

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

HealthcareIndigenousracism

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

Just Posted

This Dec. 2, 2020, file photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. (Johnson & Johnson via AP)
Interior Health notes 80 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

108 people in the region have died from the virus

A helicopter hired by Golden Dawn Minerals trails an electromagnetic scanner over Greenwood on Wednesday, March 3. Photo: Submitted
Helicopter flights above Greenwood, rural Grand Forks part of gold mining survey

Results to inform potential explorations by Golden Dawn Minerals, which owns Phoenix and other area mines

Selkirk College’s Tenth St. Campus in Nelson is among the locations where Interior Health will deliver the COVID-19 vaccine within the West Kootenay. Photo: Selkirk College
West Kootenay vaccine locations announced

Interior Health has released a list of places to receive the COVID-19 vaccine

Last week warming temperatures were a concern for Avalanche Canada forecasters, and those trends likely contributed to an avalanche that killed a West Kootenay snowmobiler on Thursday, March 4. Jen Coulter file photo.
Warming trend contributed to Kaslo fatality: Avalanche Canada

Concern for persistent layers has reduced since then

A West Kootenay man died in an avalanche on March 4 while snowmobiling near Mount Payne, which is indicted by the red flag. Illustration: Google Maps
Father of 3 dead after avalanche in West Kootenay

The man was snowmobiling with a group when incident occurred March 4

Third-grader Hudson Adrian (left) on Wednesday, Feb. 24, poses with fourth-graders Josh Hlookoff (centre) and Jaylen Dekteroff at Hutton Elementary’s Pink Shirt Day parade. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
WATCH — Grand Forks’ elementaries support Pink Shirt Day

The annual celebration of kindness puts paid to the idea that bullying was ever cool

Montreal Canadiens right wing Paul Byron (41) fights for control of the puck with Vancouver Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes (43) during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Monday, March 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Captain Clutch: Horvat nets shootout winner as Canucks edge Habs 2-1

Vancouver, Montreal tangle again on Wednesday

A special committee has been appointed to look at reforming B.C.’s police act and is inviting the public to make submissions until April 30, 2021. (Black Press media file)
Have thoughts on B.C.’s review of the provincial Police Act?

Submissions will be accepted until April 30

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
New COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna care home includes fully vaccinated seniors: Henry

Two staff and 10 residents tested positive at Cottonwoods Care Centre

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
B.C. woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

(Black Press Media files)
Hosts charged, attendees facing COVID fines after Vancouver police bust party at condo

Police had previously received 10 complaints about that condo

Most Read