Indigenous health professionals describe from the inside the systemic racism revealed in the Echaquan inquest
2021-06-07 from theglobeandmail.com
Atikamekw outreach worker Barbara Flamand felt like a police officer at Joliette hospital, walking the hallways like a beat cop in a hostile neighbourhood, trying to serve and protect Indigenous patients who felt insecure in what should be society’s safest setting.
Innu physician Dr. Stanley Vollant described systemic racism in the health system so insidious he found himself looking down on Indigenous patients as bias seeped into his mind. He described the realization he was turning into “an apple” – a derogatory term for an Indigenous person perceived to have become acculturated into white ways of thinking.
“Most people are not raging, overt racists, but the way we are educated, the culture behind that education, all of our society’s processes are tainted with racism,” Dr. Vollant said in an interview. “I only spoke Innu until I was 6. I was raised in the bush by my grandparents. I’m very proud to be Innu. But after years in the education and health system, there I was, having some of those same reflexes.”
Ms. Flamand and Dr. Vollant testified at the recently completed inquiry into the death of Joyce Echaquan. Among 59 witnesses, they were the only two who were Indigenous health care workers. They had a critical insider view of how their people are treated in Canada’s most important public service. During the inquest and afterward, they described running into systemic brick walls that created a hostile and sometimes deadly environment for Indigenous people.
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