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Systemic racism highlighted in Montreal hospital
Just weeks ago, a report on systemic racism was released detailing issues at Quebec’s largest hospital network located in Montreal. The report detailed that both staff and patients are discriminated against due to their race, religion and ethnic origin at McGill University Health Centre.
One account within the report experienced by a Black employee cited their manager as calling them the N-word and hitting them numerous times. Examples of discrimination against 2SLGBTQ+, islamophobia, anti-Asian racism and sexism were also included in the report.
Fo Niemi, director of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations has represented multiple cases where patients experienced racism in Montreal’s healthcare system, some circumstances even resulting in death.
Niemi said the government needs to do more to address systemic racism in the healthcare system.
International attention was drawn to systemic racism in Quebec's healthcare system two years ago with the death of Atikamekw women Joyce Echaquan in Joliette hospital – an hour outside of Montreal. She died shortly after recording herself on Facebook live as health-care workers made racist and derogatory remarks to her. Echaquan, experiencing extreme pain, was sedated, restrained and left alone shortly before her death.
Echaquan’s death highlights how not all Montrealers and Quebecers face the same barriers in the healthcare system. People of colour face greater barriers as a result of an institution plagued by systemic racism.
Following Echaquan’s death, the Quebec government implemented sensitivity training for healthcare workers, consisting of an hour and forty-five minute long online course. One Cree family physician said this is baby steps, the training was poorly developed, and should be led by Indigenous communities – not the government.
Niemi said the ministry of health and services implemented Indigenous awareness training, but said the training is available in French only, creating issues for English communities and English-speaking hospital workers. He also said the discussion of Inuit communities within the training is absent.
Niemi said that ensuring that training programs are designed with the participation of communities affected by systemic racism is essential, as they have expertise in dealing with their own communities.