Reconciliation must mean closing inequities and addressing systemic racism in health care

Reconciliation must mean closing inequities and addressing systemic racism in health care

A Reflection on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation:

We cannot claim to have universal Medicare without ensuring it includes everyone. This means getting serious about finally addressing the deep health inequities that Indigenous people continue to face in our province and country; it means taking the necessary action to close the structural gaps to accessing care; it means meaningfully addressing the social determinants of health; and it means dismantling the systemic racism built into our health care system.

The Friends of Medicare provincial office is located on Treaty 6 territory. It is often referenced that Treaty 6 includes 'The Medicine Chest Clause,’ a commitment to ensuring the availability and accessibility of all medicines, supplies and care required by Indigenous people. Our federal government has continuously failed to fulfill this Treaty promise.

In recognition of September 30, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Friends of Medicare continues to call on our governments to make good on their Treaty obligations, and to finally deliver on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action, as well as the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Calls for Justice. Specifically, we must see action on the Calls to Action on Health, numbers 18 thru 24, and the Calls for Justice on Health and Wellness, 3.1 thru 3.7.

We encourage all Canadians to take time to read the Calls to Action and Calls for Justice. But we recognize that fulfilling these Calls is the bare minimum: when First Nations and Metis Settlements call for solutions to fill the gaps in access to health care that their communities are experiencing, our governments must listen and act in partnership to address them.

This includes the mental health and drug poisoning crises. This summer, Treaty 6 Chiefs declared a state of emergency over drug-related deaths in their communities, and 5 Nations in Treaty 8 Territory have since followed suit. The Grand Chief of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations has stated: “If harm reduction isn’t available, our people will die.” Yet we have seen no change to the provincial government's approach to the ongoing drug poisoning crisis. Friends of Medicare continues to ask Albertans to join us in calling on the government to include harm reduction services in their response. 

We must acknowledge structural racism entrenched in Alberta’s health care system, experienced both by patients and those working in the system. Leadership is long overdue when it comes to addressing the well-documented racism regularly experienced by Indigenous people when interacting with our health care system, whether when showing up to an emergency room or attempting to access other health care services.

It’s unacceptable that anyone in Alberta experiences worse treatment or poorer health outcomes because of who they are. This work takes all of us. In the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation, it is time for governments, employers, professional associations, unions, community and advocacy groups, and all Albertans to step up. On September 30 and every day, we must do better.


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