Abstract

"Let each of us do what we can to ensure that all our brothers, all our sisters, our young and our old, our people of all colours, our people of different languages and religions and cultures, feel that they belong."
- Ramon John Hnatyshyn,
former Governor General, Canada

Nearly 40 years after the enactment of civil rights legislation in the United States and following a generation of multicultural policy in Canada, the vast majority of nurses in both countries are still female and white. But while nursing remains starkly segregated by gender, it is hardly alone among the health professions in its under-representation of visible minorities. Physicians and other caregivers find themselves in similar positions - they do not always reflect the communities and patients they serve. In the United States, for example, where such statistics are collected, dentistry has particularly significant imbalances in the gender (mostly male) and racial (mostly white) mix of its workforce. In Canadian nursing, beyond the staff nurse level there appear to be few persons of colour in formal decision-making, leadership or policy positions. In the territory of Nunavut, we are aware of just one Inuit registered nurse (RN) and no other professional Inuit caregivers. When we look around at our nursing leaders, managers, directors, boards, faculty and decision-makers, we do not see the Canadian mosaic mirrored back. Rectifying these disparities across the health professions is long overdue, and the time has come to act.