Human rights commission looking to address anti-Indigenous discrimination in healthcare

OHRC seeking feedback from Indigenous peoples, healthcare professionals to develop policy

Human rights commission looking to address anti-Indigenous discrimination in healthcare

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) is aiming to eliminate anti-Indigenous discrimination within the province’s healthcare system.

The OHRC is working with Indigenous partners to develop human rights policy guidance to put a stop to this phenomenon, which the commission describes as “long-standing and widespread”.

"Indigenous-specific discrimination is pervasive throughout our healthcare system,” said Patricia DeGuire, chief commissioner, OHRC, “This is intolerable. The commission calls for immediate and practical change.”

Nearly six in 10 (58.6%) of Indigenous workers have experienced discrimination in their current workplace, according to a previous report.

Survey of Indigenous peoples’ lived experiences

As part of this project, OHRC is launching an online survey to gather information about lived experiences from First Nations, Inuit, Métis, and urban Indigenous people who have experienced discrimination when receiving healthcare services.

The survey is also seeking input from family members, caregivers, service providers and other people who have witnessed Indigenous-specific discrimination in healthcare.

“The engagements and the survey are the start of the Commission's work to develop vital human rights guidance to help prevent and address this discrimination," said DeGuire.

"We acknowledge and are grateful for the past work done by Wabano and other Indigenous organizations and communities to document the harm and consequences of Indigenous-specific discrimination and call for change. We hope the Commission's guidance will provide a valuable tool to hold the healthcare system accountable."

The commission will detail the result of the survey in a report. 

Racism in Indigenous healthcare in Canada

Anti-Indigenous discrimination and racism in the healthcare system is a key determinant of poor Indigenous health outcomes, leading to very serious, and sometimes lethal, consequences, such as the tragic experiences of Brian Sinclair, Joyce Echaquan, Brent Sky and Helen Winterstein, noted the commission.

As of 2013, life expectancy for Indigenous people remained about 10 years lower than the non-Indigenous population (71 years compared to 81 years in 2004 and 82 years in 2013), noted the commission.

Also, rates of chronic conditions are significantly higher in First Nation, Inuit, and Métis populations than in the general Ontario population: 63% of First Nations people off-reserve and 61% of Métis suffer from one or more chronic conditions, compared to 47% of the non-Indigenous population.

Collectively, experiences of racism and discriminatory treatment from healthcare professionals have led to a lack of trust in, and unwillingness to access, health services and has caused Indigenous people to delay or avoid seeking timely essential care, according to participants at the OHRC's 2018 Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights dialogue.

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