Statement by the Minister of Indigenous Services, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Northern Affairs on Eliminating Racism in the Healthcare System


OTTAWA, ONTARIO (October 16, 2020) – The Honourable Marc Miller, the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, the Honourable Patty Hajdu and the Honourable Daniel Vandal, issued the following statement today regarding the virtual gathering with Indigenous Peoples and organizations, healthcare professionals, and provincial and territorial representatives to work toward eliminating systematic racism in the healthcare system:

“Institutions across the country continue to fail Indigenous Peoples.

The healthcare system failed Joyce Echaquan and her family, and it has failed Indigenous Peoples.  All orders of government are responsible for this ongoing failure. It is unacceptable that First Nations, Inuit and Métis continue to endure systemic racism and discrimination when seeking the care they need.  Racism kills and systemic racism kills systematically.  The result is a fear and distrust in a system that can only succeed through trust. The avoidance of care and the denial of care contributes to and exacerbates significant inequities in health and social outcomes.

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

We must immediately act to address racism against Indigenous Peoples within Canada’s healthcare systems to ensure that everyone is treated with respect, dignity and care when seeking medical support. This is not a new concern. But it is an urgent one.  The federal government alone cannot implement all the changes needed. We must work together with Indigenous partners and health professionals, governing bodies, and provinces and territories in order to end racism and systemic discrimination and ensure equal and compassionate care of Indigenous Peoples.

We each have the moral obligation to call out racism in all its forms and to come together to continue the work to eliminate the systemic racism experienced by First Nations, Inuit and Métis in Canada’s healthcare systems.

As such, the Government of Canada convened a virtual gathering today to listen to Indigenous Peoples and healthcare professionals share the lived experience of the systemic racism in federal, provincial and territorial healthcare systems. Today, all present acknowledged the critical need to take real action to address the unacceptable racism and discrimination in all of our institutions. The experiences shared by the participants will inform urgent, concrete short-term measures that governments, health authorities, educational institutions, health professional associations, regulatory colleges and accreditation organizations can implement to prevent and document systemic and overt racism and ensure consequences and accountability.

Today’s dialogue also emphasized the actions we need to take to strengthen the representation of Indigenous Peoples in the delivery of health services, support improved safety of Indigenous Peoples in the healthcare system and improve culturally safe approaches to care and services. This work involves, but is not limited to, greater efforts for improved post-secondary education support for Indigenous Peoples, introducing patient centered care and resources in Indigenous languages, and mandatory, ongoing anti-racism, cultural safety and humility training for all health practitioners.

As we move forward, the Government of Canada is committed to convening another gathering in January 2021, where proposed and implemented measures will be presented by governments and healthcare organizations. These will be used to develop concrete national plans that address cultural safety in all institutions and include accountability measures to eliminate racism in our healthcare systems. In the meantime, we remain dedicated to supporting equitable and culturally safe, community-led, community-driven and distinctions-based approaches to healthcare.

We will continue to work with all partners to increase cultural safety and respect for Indigenous Peoples in Canada’s healthcare systems. The Speech from the Throne reinforced the government’s commitment to co-develop distinctions-based Indigenous health legislation.  While new legislation itself is not a solution to all, it offers opportunities to advance our joint commitment with partners to bring about meaningful change.

Each and every one of us needs to do our part to eliminate racism and discrimination against Indigenous Peoples.  We all have a responsibility to gain greater cultural awareness and challenge racism where and when we see it.” 


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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