Government of Canada actions to address anti-Indigenous racism in health systems

All Indigenous Peoples must have fair and equitable access to quality and culturally safe healthcare services, from any health professional, anywhere they are and any time they need it.

Support for those affected by anti-Indigenous racism in Canada's health systems

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It is unacceptable that First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples continue to endure racism and discrimination when seeking health services.

The Government of Canada is acting to address racism. Together with Indigenous partners and health professionals, governing bodies and provinces and territories, the government will act to:

What we are doing

First national dialogue (October 16, 2020)

On October 16, 2020, after the death of Joyce Echaquan, the Government of Canada convened an urgent meeting with:

  • Ms. Echaquan's family and her First Nation's leadership
  • Indigenous health practitioners and students
  • First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation leaders
  • federal, provincial and territorial government representatives
  • health system partners
  • Indigenous leaders

The objectives of the meeting were:

  • to listen to lived experiences of Indigenous people and health care professionals regarding systemic racism in federal, provincial and territorial health systems
  • to reflect upon the information shared to inform concrete measures that governments, educational institutions, health professional associations, regulatory colleges, and accreditation organizations can take
  • to commit to a second gathering in January 2021 where these proposed or implemented measures would be presented by governments and health care organizations

While the federal government can directly influence the provision of services on reserves for First Nations, Canada must work in partnership with provinces and territories, health system partners and educational institutions to advance anti-racism and cultural safety for all Indigenous people accessing services through those systems as well.

Real and effective change requires all of our collective actions in a spirit of trust, commitment, cultural humility and reconciliation.

Second national dialogue (January 27 and 28, 2021)

On January 27 and 28, 2021, a second national dialogue was held, focusing on engaging federal, provincial and territorial governments, health systems and Indigenous partners.

While continuing to honour the legacy of Joyce Echaquan and many other Indigenous individuals who have faced traumatic experiences of racism in health systems, the objective of this meeting was to discuss concrete measures to eliminate anti-Indigenous racism in Canadian healthcare.

On February 10, 2021, the Government of Canada highlighted funding of $2 million to the Conseil de la Nation Atikamekw and the Conseil des Atikamekw de Manawan, Joyce's Nation, to advance their work and advocacy for the implementation of Joyce's Principle. With this funding, the Atikamekw, including the community members of Manawan, will be able to develop tools and training, promote Joyce's Principle to healthcare professionals, and educate First Nations on their rights when accessing the healthcare systems.

Third national dialogue (June 28 and 29, 2021)

The 2 national dialogues in October 2020 and January 2021 with National Indigenous Organization representatives, Indigenous health professionals, health system partners and provincial/territorial representatives were initial steps in addressing anti-Indigenous racism in health systems.

The national dialogues, together with extensive work already undertaken on this issue including through the Ignored to Death report, the In Plain Sight report and the findings of the Val-d'Or inquiry on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services, identified many root causes, exacerbating factors and gaps that need to be addressed.

The June National Dialogue on Anti-Indigenous Racism (June 28 and 29, 2021) is an opportunity to pursue collective actions related to:

  • increasing Indigenous representation in postsecondary health education
  • cultural safety and humility
  • traditional approaches to health and safe patient navigation

For more information:

Next steps

From this meeting, and with our collective commitment to this work, we will develop and implement strategies to reform services and ensure that health systems are free of anti-Indigenous racism.

In working with Indigenous partners and health professionals, institutions and accreditation bodies, as well as provinces and territories, we are committed to instilling a zero tolerance approach to racism against Indigenous peoples across all healthcare systems in Canada.

The Government of Canada will continue to convene national dialogues and roundtable discussions with organizations across the country that continue inform the path forward on addressing racism in Canada's health systems.

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