BC Minister of Health Adrian Dix responded to “serious” allegations of racist practices in the province’s health care system involving care providers guessing the blood alcohol levels of Indigenous patients in the ER.
“Last night, I was made aware of serious allegations of racist and completely abhorrent practices in an emergency room or emergency rooms in BC,” said Dix.
The allegation is that a game was being played to guess the blood-alcohol level of patients in emergency rooms, with Indigenous peoples and perhaps others.
If confirmed, he said, “this conduct is beyond unacceptable,” and “requires an immediate and swift response.”
Dix said he has contacted Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond and asked her to lead the investigation of this issue. “I consider these allegations to be very serious and we have to assess the facts, and that requires an investigation to take place. And I know we must also take action.”
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Turpel-Lafond practises as senior associate counsel at Woodward and Company, and is a member of Saskatchewan’s Muskeg Lake Cree Nation.
In 1998, she was was the first Aboriginal woman appointed to the judicial bench of the provincial court of Saskatchewan.
“I think she has the credibility and will do an excellent job,” said Dix. “Foundational to our ongoing work of reconciliation are the voices of Indigenous leaders.”
As an independent investigator, Ms. Turpel-Lafond “will work to determine the facts of these specific allegations,” the minister said. “We need to get to the root of these problems, and that begins with an understanding that racist attitudes and actions have a real and devastating impact on health outcomes, creating trauma that can affect generations.”
Turpel-Lafond, he said, “will help determine the prevalence” of these attitudes and actions at a systemic level in our health-care system.”
“Everyone who comes to our hospitals deserves and should be able to expect access to respectful and culturally safe care,” said Dix. “We are committed to continuing the work and engagement that brought these reports forward, and will be working together with Indigenous health and community leaders on next steps.”