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Province of British Columbia
STATEMENT
For Immediate Release
2020HLTH0198-001115
June 19, 2020
Ministry of Health
Minister’s statement on Province’s response to allegations of racism in health-care system

VANCOUVER – Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, has issued the following statement regarding recent allegations of racism in the health-care system:

“Last night, I was made aware of serious allegations of racist and completely abhorrent practices in an emergency room or emergency rooms in B.C. If confirmed, this conduct is beyond unacceptable. The allegation is that a game was being played to guess the blood-alcohol level of patients in emergency rooms, with Indigenous peoples and perhaps others.

“If this is true, it’s intolerable, unacceptable and racist. Actions like this profoundly affect patient care. This requires, in my view, an immediate and swift response.  

“I contacted Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond and asked her to lead the investigation of this issue. I think she has the credibility to do that and will do an excellent job. Foundational to our ongoing work of reconciliation are the voices of Indigenous leaders.

“I consider these allegations to be very serious and we have to assess the facts, and that requires an investigation to take place. And I know we must also take action.

“As an independent investigator, Ms. Turpel-Lafond will work to determine the facts of these specific allegations. We need to get to the root of these problems, and that begins with an understanding that racist attitudes and actions have a real and devastating impact on health outcomes, creating trauma that can affect generations. She will help determine the prevalence of these attitudes and actions at a systemic level in our health-care system.

“Everyone who comes to our hospitals deserves and should be able to expect access to respectful and culturally safe care.

“We are committed to continuing the work and engagement that brought these reports forward, and will be working together with Indigenous health and community leaders on next steps.”

Learn More:

Visit the San’yas San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Training developed in B.C. and used across Canada at: http://www.sanyas.ca/

A backgrounder follows.

 
Contact:
 
Ministry of Health
Communications
250 952-1887 (media line)
 

 
Province of British Columbia
BACKGROUNDER
For Immediate Release
2020HLTH0198-001115
June 19, 2020
Ministry of Health
Investigator Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond

Mary Turpel-Lafond currently practises as senior associate counsel at Woodward and Company.

She brings her extensive experience in the field of Aboriginal law to her current practice, in which she appears at all levels of court on cases relating to land claims, Indigenous and human rights matters, and public law litigation. She is a tenured full professor of law at Peter Allard Hall School of Law at the University of British Columbia (UBC), director of UBC’s Residential School History and Dialogue Centre and served as a Saskatchewan provincial court judge for 20 years.

Turpel-Lafond is a member of Saskatchewan’s Muskeg Lake Cree Nation and in 1998 was the first Aboriginal woman appointed to the judicial bench of the provincial court of Saskatchewan.

During her time on the bench, Turpel-Lafond was actively involved in projects relating to better supports for Indigenous peoples, specifically the unique circumstances and needs of youth involved in the justice system. Ceaselessly advocating for children’s human rights, she later served as B.C.’s first representative for children and youth (2006-16), a role in which she advocated for more than 17,000 youths and their families, most of whom were Indigenous.

Turpel-Lafond holds a doctorate in law from Harvard Law School (S.J.D.), a master’s in international law from Cambridge University (Gonville and Caius College), a J.D. law degree from York University’s Osgoode Hall and a bachelor of arts degree from Carleton University. She also holds a certificate in the international and comparative law of human rights from the University of Strasbourg.

Turpel-Lafond has been awarded the distinction of Indigenous Peoples’ Counsel from the Indigenous Bar Association. She also received the Bill McFarland Award from the Parent Support Services Society of B.C. for outstanding commitment to the prevention of child abuse. She is a recipient of the Perry Shawana Award for her leadership and championship for the voices and rights of children. She was selected as a Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation mentor to help guide the next generation of leaders in the social sciences and humanities.

 
Contact:
 
Ministry of Health
Communications
250 952-1887 (media line)
 

 
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