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Governments Must Uphold Principles of Canada Health Act to Address Systemic Racism in Healthcare

Press Release

President Kudloo calls for additional funding to improve health determinants for Inuit women and girls and a focus on youth to increase Inuit health providers

OTTAWA – Rebecca Kudloo, President of Pauktuutit Women of Canada, will highlight how the Canada Health Act is failing Inuit women and girls when she participates in a national meeting to address racism in the healthcare system, tomorrow.

Kudloo will also table recommendations to address racism experienced by Inuit women and children in the healthcare system. In addition, she will highlight the role systemic racism plays in health determinants for Inuit women which lead to poorer health outcomes, relative to other women in Canada.

Highlights of the recommendations include:

  • Increased funding to ensure the principles of the Canada Health Act ‐‐ including accessibility, comprehensiveness and universality ‐‐ are upheld for Inuit women and girls wherever they live, and that there are sufficient and sustainable health resources in each community.
  • Ensuring anti‐racism and cultural safety in education so Inuit children and youth receive STEM outreach programs; high school students receive counselling about the path to becoming a health professional; safe and respectful post‐secondary classrooms; as well as clinical settings that are free of racism and discrimination.
  • Training, recruiting, retaining, and mentoring Inuit staff and healthcare providers at all levels of the health system; as well as creating working and learning environments where Inuit knowledge, leadership and enterprise are valued.
  • Culturally aware and appropriate training to ensure all students training to work in healthcare, as well as present‐day healthcare staff, receive cultural awareness training regarding Inuit history and culture. Students and healthcare workers should also receive gender‐based violence training and those working in Inuit communities should receive Inuktut language training.
  • Inuit‐informed delivery of healthcare so that Elders, community leaders, women and youth are involved in the design and delivery of healthcare programs and services for their people and communities.

“For Inuit women and girls, healthcare services fail most of the five basic principles of the Canada Health Act: accessibility, comprehensiveness, universality, portability, and public administration,” said Kudloo. “This is important because under the federal legislation, provincial and territorial health insurance programs must conform to the conditions of the legislation to receive federal transfer payments, under the Canada Health Transfer.”

Systemic racism is also a key factor in many of the well‐known determinants of health, including employment, education, justice and income. Racism negatively impacts Inuit students’ success in graduating high school. It also limits their goals for post‐secondary education, including becoming a health professional. In addition, racism contributes to a lack of employment opportunities and the marginalization of Inuit in the workplace, including in well‐paying jobs in the healthcare system.

“The bottom line is that racism experienced before an Inuit woman even seeks healthcare impacts her socioeconomic status which, in turn, negatively impacts the quality of healthcare she receives and her health outcomes,” said Kudloo.

The delivery of healthcare services to Inuit fails the principle of comprehensiveness because clinics in Inuit communities are not equally resourced, with comparable clinics in southern Canada. Nor are Inuit always treated with the same level of diligence, care and compassion as other sick or injured persons visiting an emergency room, seeking help for mental illness and addictions, or receiving treatment for cancer or chronic diseases.

For example, one young boy was misdiagnosed in Iqaluit and prescribed Tylenol. By the time he was properly diagnosed in Montreal, his cancer had progressed too far for his life to be saved. As well, too often when families go south for help, they encounter ignorance and racism from health providers. For example, one Inuk woman learned her son was diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) because the pediatrician mistook his Inuit features of slanted eyes and high cheekbones as evidence of FASD.

The delivery of healthcare for Inuit fails universality because of a lack of equal access across the country to services, especially in remote areas. During the MMIWG inquiry, families testified that the quality of healthcare provided in Inuit Nunangat is poor. Some examples cited: the failure to diagnose a torn ACL, the failure to diagnose tuberculosis, and the failure to diagnose leukemia. Tylenol was so often improperly prescribed to Inuit patients in even dire medical circumstances that it was described as “the smallpox for Inuit”.

The delivery of healthcare for Inuit fails the principle of accessibility because necessary healthcare services are not available for Inuit women and girls in their communities. Two major examples of this are the lack of mental health services and the lack of obstetrical services.

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For more information, please contact:

Susan King,
613.724.1518, 007
[email protected]

or

Antoinette Brind’Amour,
613.316.8943,
[email protected]

IHT5