Marc Miller systemic racism Indigenous healthcare system Canada

“There is systemic racism in the health care system in every province and territory”

Indigenous Affairs Minister Marc Miller spoke ahead of a summit on anti-Indigenous racism in health care.

In a press conference about the state of Indigenous communities in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic, Indigenous Affairs Minister Marc Miller was asked about the measures of success for combating systemic racism in the health care system, an issue being tackled in a summit with fellow ministers and Indigenous leaders this week.

“We know going into the meeting that there is systemic racism in the health care system in every province and in every territory,” Miller said. “We know that is false to say that the federal government has no role to play in the health of Canadians. If anything, this epidemic has shown us as much. We also know that this is a jurisdiction that is zealously guarded by the provinces, but when it comes to issues like systemic racism and discrimination, every leader in this country has a leadership role to play in calling it out and getting rid of it. There are many things that can’t be solved overnight, and structural changes that need to be addressed.”

Miller brought up his ongoing communication with members of the Atikamekw Nation that was home to Joyce Echaquan, the Indigenous woman who died under suspicious circumstances in a Joliette hospital in September after exposing cruel racist comments made to her by staff via Facebook live. He also mentioned Joyce’s Principle, the comprehensive list of proposals drafted by the Atikamekw Nation, but rejected by the Quebec National Assembly — its adoption would have been an admission that systemic racism exists in Quebec, something that François Legault’s government has consistently denied. Another act of negligence towards an Indigenous person in a Quebec hospital was reported earlier this month, when a Mohawk man was released from the St. Eustache Hospital wearing only a hospital gown.

“As leaders, when we call out systemic racism in the health care system towards Indigenous peoples, Canadians often get frustrated at politicians who simply call things out and then don’t do anything afterwards, so I think Canadians will expect concrete answers and concrete measures. A measure of success is coming up with a joint plan, as Canadians, to hold ourselves up to the standards that we have set for ourselves and recognize that in some respects we are failing but we can meet them together as a country.”

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