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

Just Posted

The City of Red Deer sits at 249 active cases of the virus, after hitting a peak of 565 active cases on Feb. 22. (Black Press file image)
Red Deer down to 119 active COVID-19 cases

Province identifies 179 new cases Saturday

Member Terry Parsons’ custom built track vehicle.
Forestburg’s Area 53 Racetrack gears up for action-packed season

Site will also host a portion of the ‘Miles of Mayhem’ event in July

Sabrina Wilde in front of a recently purchased monster truck. Submitted.
Thorsby business women a finalist for 2021 Alberta Women’s Entrepreneurship Award

Sabrina Wilde with Lone Wolf Mechanical is a finalist for the entrepreneurial award.

Grade 12 students at Wetaskiwin Composite High School took place in the annual water fight off school property on June 11, 2021. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
Graduating students in Wetaskiwin throw water fight after being told it could result in suspension

Students were told their participation could result in them being barred from graduation ceremonies.

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Christian Eriksen in stable condition, Euro 2020 match resumes

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Airport ground crew offload a plane carrying just under 300,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine which is developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
1st batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines won’t be released in Canada over quality concerns

The vaccines were quarantined in April before they were distributed to provinces

The arrest south of Winnipeg occurred before Bernier was to arrive at a protest in the city. (Twitter/Maxime Bernier)
Maxime Bernier arrested following anti-rules rallies in Manitoba: RCMP

He’s been charged with exceeding public gathering limits and violating Manitoba’s requirement to self-isolate

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives for the G7 Summit, at the airport in Newquay, United Kingdom, Thursday, June 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Details on Canada’s vaccine sharing plan coming Sunday, up to 100 million doses

Canada’s high commissioner to the UK says details will come after the G7 summit

Most Read