Two years ago, the release of the “In Plain Sight: Addressing Indigenous-specific Racism and Discrimination in B.C. Health Care” (IPS) report (PDF) asked all those serving B.C.’s health-care system to acknowledge the truth of Indigenous-specific racism and the devastating harm it continues to have on First Nations and Indigenous patients, families and health-care workers. This harm continues today and every day we fail to make progress, we perpetuate preventable harm.
Over the past two years, I have seen evidence of a tangible shift, an opening to and an interest from our staff and leaders in wanting to be part of this change. I am grateful for the thought leadership of our Indigenous Health team as well as many Elders and Knowledge Keepers, who have shared their time and wisdom, allowing us to move forward with humility.
Thanks to their collective wisdom, we are moving forward with actions taken in response to a number of the IPS report recommendations. While we are still in the beginning stages with significant work yet to come, some of these actions include:
- Improved patient complaint process - A full review of all PHSA policies is underway to ensure complainants feel safe when raising an issue with PHSA’s Patient Complaints and Quality Office (PCQO). Indigenous Patient Navigators have also been hired throughout the organization to offer support and guidance to Indigenous patients and families.
- Design of health-care facilities - The Red Fish Healing Centre stands as an example of what is possible through the blending of two ways of knowing. The Kʷikʷəƛ̓əm First Nation contributed to the design of the centre and therapeutic programming to help ensure care at Red Fish is culturally safe and inclusive, through language, artwork and incorporation of spiritual healing practices, such as smudging.
- Recruitment of Indigenous individuals into senior positions - Last year we welcomed k'ʷunəmɛn, Joe Gallagher to PHSA as our vice president, Indigenous Health & Cultural Safety. PHSA is also guided by the wisdom of two Indigenous board members, Wii Esdes, Sandra Martin Harris of the Witset First Nation, chair of the Cultural Safety & Humility committee and Gloria Ann Morgan of the Splatsin First Nation.
- Cultural safety and humility training - Earlier this month, the PHSA Board of Directors approved a new policy to address education and training opportunities on Indigenous cultural safety and Indigenous-specific anti-racism. Staff are highly encouraged and supported to take training such as the San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety program, which is available to all staff and medical staff.
- Advance truth-telling in consultation and cooperation with Indigenous people - PHSA’s executive leadership team and Board of Directors have embarked on an intensive learning journey to unlearn and relearn the origins of Indigenous-specific racism found in historic and ongoing settler-colonialism and the continued impacts on Indigenous peoples. Earlier this month, our Board of Directors took part in a Blanket Ceremony, marking their commitment to do the work on an Indigenous-Specific Anti-Racism Action Plan.
Marking the anniversary of the IPS report is not just about documenting progress related to its recommendations, but also about holding ourselves accountable and living up to our obligations documented in the DRIPA Action Plan
. The onus is now on us to commit ourselves to the journey to eliminate Indigenous-specific racism and to provide culturally safe care, with humility and through the guidance of First Nations and Indigenous peoples.