Statement by the Minister of Indigenous Services, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Northern Affairs on the Work to Eliminate Racism Against Indigenous Peoples in the Healthcare Systems

Press Release

OTTAWA, ONTARIO (January 28th, 2021) – The Honourable Marc Miller, the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, the Honourable Patty Hajdu and the Honourable Daniel Vandal issued the following statement today:

“For far too long, Canada’s history of colonialism has driven racist practices, behaviours and policies against Indigenous Peoples. Systemic racism remains embedded in our country’s healthcare systems, with catastrophic effects for First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities. Indigenous Peoples are entitled to receive first-class medical care, without fear of discrimination or maltreatment.  It is long overdue that we come together to eliminate and eradicate any and all forms of racism and discrimination.

In September, the tragic death of Joyce Echaquan was a stark reminder of the anti-Indigenous racism still prevalent across the country. Unfortunately, what Joyce Echaquan experienced was not an isolated incident. Too many First Nations, Inuit and Métis individuals and families have lived through similar experiences – adding to the abundant evidence that the Canadian healthcare systems are failing Indigenous Peoples. Without significant change, Indigenous Peoples will continue to face harmful and persistent inequities in their health and social outcomes because of inadequate access to appropriate health services.

It is only by listening and learning from the experiences of Indigenous patients, practitioners and health professionals that real change will come. Today, the Government of Canada concluded a second national dialogue on anti-Indigenous racism in the healthcare systems. It provided a platform for Indigenous partners, governments, educational and professional institutions and healthcare organizations to share best practices to address this systemic issue. We are grateful for these conversations.

The Government of Canada invited provinces and territories as well as First Nations, Inuit and Métis partners and healthcare organizations and representatives to renew their commitment to eliminating racism. At the core of this commitment is the development of response strategies to anti-Indigenous racism led by each level of government and key organizations who play an important role in healthcare delivery. During this national dialogue, the Government of Canada reaffirmed our commitment to address anti-Indigenous racism in healthcare systems by:

  • Launching the engagement process for the co-development of distinctions-based Indigenous health legislation to deliver high quality healthcare for First Nations, Inuit and Métis. This work is supported by $15.6 million over 2 years from the Fall Economic Statement.
  • Providing $2 million to the Atikamekw Nation and Manawan First Nation to advance their advocacy for the implementation of the federal aspects of Joyce’s Principle across Canada.  Joyce’s Principle aims to guarantee to all Indigenous Peoples the right of equitable access to social and health services, as well as the right to enjoy the best possible physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
  • Continuing the implementation of the recommendations from key reports. This includes In Plain Sight: Addressing Indigenous-specific Racism and Discrimination in B.C. Health Care, the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the Viens Commission report.
  • Increasing access to care that is culturally safe and free from discrimination by providing $4 million to the National Consortium of Indigenous Medical Education. Their work will focus on improving the experiences of Indigenous Peoples in medical school admissions, education and medical practice in six priority areas, including better assessment of Indigenous studies, cultural safety and anti-racism during medical school admissions, the addition of anti-racism learning modules, improving Indigenous faculty recruitment and retention as well as increasing admissions of Indigenous students into medical school.
  • Continuing the work to implement the United Nations Declaration the Rights of Indigenous Peoples  (UNDRIP) in Canada, including Article 24 which states that Indigenous Peoples ‘have the rights to their traditional medicines and to maintain their health practices, including the conservations of their vital medicinal plants, animals and minerals.’ Indigenous individuals also have ‘the right to access, without any discrimination, to all social and health services’ and that ‘Indigenous individuals have an equal right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.’
  • Increasing Indigenous representation in the healthcare field by supporting Indigenous-led health organizations. This will allow development of new health governance models that will increase Indigenous control and responsibility over delivery and management of federally funded health services.
  • Supporting national and regional health organizations for targeted measures and tools to address anti-racism, encourage cultural humility and promote trauma-informed practices.
  • Supporting the National Collaborating Centre for Indigenous Health to create a one-stop shop for cultural safety and anti-racism tools and resources.
  • Working with partners to support better progress measurements including indicators, data collection tools and regular public reporting.
  • Convening a third national dialogue in spring 2021 to continue pursuing collective actions related to increasing Indigenous representation in postsecondary medical education, cultural competency training, traditional approaches to health and safe patient navigation. Between February and March 2021, regional, distinctions- and theme-based roundtables on anti-Indigenous racism in healthcare will be held.

In working with provinces and territories, as well as Indigenous partners and health professionals, institutions and accreditation bodies, we must eliminate racism against First Nations, Inuit and Métis across all healthcare systems in Canada. Real and effective change requires all of our collective actions in a spirit of trust, commitment, cultural humility and reconciliation.

Our path will be Indigenous-led, community-based and culturally safe, while considering and recognizing intersectionality in our anti-racism work. In Indigenous communities, women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people often face unique hardships, which need to be heard, understood and addressed.

Progress is being made, but there is much work ahead. Every one of us has a part in eliminating systemic racism and discrimination against Indigenous Peoples.”


For more information, media may contact:

Adrienne Vaupshas
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Marc Miller,
Minister of Indigenous Services

Media Relations
Indigenous Services Canada

Media Relations
Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada

Media Relations
Health Canada


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