ontario news watch

Bill prompts call for Quebec to recognize systemic racism in health system

Quebec’s College of Physicians says the government is taking a “paternalistic and colonialist” approach with new legislation aimed at improving the treatment of Indigenous people in the health network.

The professional order overseeing the province’s doctors was the first group to testify at two days of consultations on a bill aimed at instituting a “cultural safety approach” toward Indigenous patients.

The college says in a written brief presented to a legislature committee that it will be hard for the government to ensure care is provided with respect for a patient’s cultural identity if it does not first acknowledge the systemic racism in the health network.

The college says the scope of the cultural safety bill should be broadened to include all vulnerable groups, including Indigenous groups, who it says must be given a role in drafting the bill.

The Coalition Avenir Québec government has steadfastly refused to recognize the existence of systemic racism, and Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafrenière says the bill is a first step toward improving quality of care.

Quebec’s refusal to recognize systemic racism has prevented the government from adopting Joyce’s Principle, a series of measures proposed by the Atikamekw community to ensure equitable access to health care after an Atikamekw woman died in a Joliette, Que., hospital in 2020.

In his opening remarks today, Lafrenière honoured the memory of Joyce Echaquan, the mother of seven who filmed health-care staff making insults and derogatory comments towards her shortly before her death.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 12, 2023.

The Canadian Press