There have been a number of recent events that serve to remind us of how much work we still need to do toward dismantling systemic racism and discrimination from our society and health system.
The first was the discovery of the remains of 215 children on the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. This was followed shortly after by a targeted, hate-motivated attack on a Muslim family in London, Ontario.
Our thoughts are with the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, Indigenous People in BC, and Canada’s Muslim Community. We share your grief, stand with you in solidarity, and remain committed to ensuring that these atrocities and their resulting patterns of trauma are respectfully acknowledge and appropriately addressed in every decision we make.
2020 highlighted a number of social issues that required deeper consideration of our role as a health regulator in BC.
We mourned with Black communities and allies across the US, Canada and abroad, for the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and countless others, at the hands of police brutality and a culture of systemic racism and violence.
We were disturbed to learn about the irrefutable evidence for Indigenous-specific racism within our own healthcare system, as well as the surge in anti-Asian hate crimes in Vancouver during the pandemic.
These events prompted us to recognize and acknowledge the internal biases we may not realize we hold, and to ask ourselves how we may be contributing to the systemic racism and discrimination present throughout North America.
It is a common and unfortunate misconception that BC and Canada are somehow exempt from the racism, discrimination and stigma faced by our neighbours in the US. However, racial discrimination and oppression are some of the most significant determinants of health outcomes in Canada and they need to be addressed at all levels of our health system.
As a regulator, the College governs over 9,000 registered pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in British Columbia, and it is our duty to ensure that the health professionals we regulate provide safe and ethical care to all British Columbians.
As part of this duty, the College acknowledges that we, as an organization and regulator, need to step up and lead the charge for systemic change with the goal of eliminating the everyday impacts of discrimination and racism within BC’s health system.
As health professionals, the most important thing we can do is to show our country’s Black, Indigenous and Other People of Colour our unending support and remind patients in these communities that we are in this together.
While we are encouraged by the progress made leaders and organizations over the past year, we must continue to combat the racism faced by BIPOC and other marginalized communities in BC.
Here are some of the ways we did that in 2020/2021:
Black Lives Matter
The College of Pharmacists of British Columbia stands against racism in solidarity with the Black community.
On May 25, 2020, we watched in horror as George Floyd, a 46-year old Black man, lost his life after Minneapolis police officers took a series of actions that violated the policies of the Minneapolis Police Department during his arrest.
In the days and months that followed, we witnessed and participated in a massive outpour of global support for Black Communities and allies as they stood against police brutality and a culture of systemic racism and violence.
In response, College Registrar Bob Nakagawa pledged the College’s commitment to developing a plan to raise awareness of, and actively combat, the racism faced by Black People in BC. To help enact this change, the College established a Black Lives Matter Working Group focused on identifying ways that the College, as both and organization and regulator, can take action and reinforce the fact that Black Lives Matter, and that racism, in any form, has no place in our health system.
Over the coming year, the Black Lives Matter Working Group will be working to develop an Anti-Racism Framework to guide our organization as we work to dismantle systemic racism and eliminate discrimination based on race, ethnicity, culture, gender, and sexual orientation from both our health system and our own policies as an employer.
Additionally, all College staff will be participating in anti-oppression training over the coming fiscal year. This training is intended to empower and enable staff to view and approach the world, and their work at the College, through an anti-oppressive lens. This training is an important component of the College’s organizational strategy toward holding ourselves accountable as an anti-racist organization, and ensuring that unconscious bias does not impact the work we do as a regulator.
Learn More: Registrar’s Message – Black Lives Matter
Investigation into Indigenous-Specific Racism
On June 19, 2020, BC Health Minister Adrian Dix announced an investigation into disturbing allegations of racism in BC’s health system. Staff in one or more BC emergency rooms were said to have been
playing a “game” involving guessing the blood alcohol content of patients coming into the ER for help, in particular Indigenous patients.
The College, along with BC’s Health Regulators were in full support of the investigation, led by Dr. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond (Aki-Kwe), and the culminating report “In Plain Sight: Addressing Indigenous-specific Racism and Discrimination in B.C Health Care.”
Released in December 2020, the report found that the majority of Indigenous People in BC have encountered racism and discrimination within our health care system, whether as a patient or a health care worker. Indigenous respondents described experiencing stereotyping, unacceptable personal interactions and poorer quality of care, as well as noting that they do not feel safe when accessing health care services and interacting with health providers.
Based on consultations with almost 9,000 Indigenous peoples and health care workers, the report’s findings illustrated how our current health-care system continues to limit access to medical treatment and negatively affects the health and wellness of Indigenous peoples.
In 2017, the College pledged its commitment to improving BC pharmacy professionals’ work with First Nations and Aboriginal People however, the gravity of these findings forced us to take a step back and re-examine our role as health care leaders. Our job is to protect patients and the public by ensuring that the professionals we regulate provide safe, ethical and quality care. And yet, the continued existence of widespread systemic discrimination, and inequitable health outcomes for Indigenous Peoples makes it clear that we have not done enough.
System racism and intolerance toward Indigenous worldviews and traditional approaches to health, as well as the enduring legacy of colonialism all present as persistent barriers for Indigenous People when accessing appropriate health care services.
In response to the report, the College has been working with Indigenous experts and other health regulators in BC to take immediate action toward dismantling Indigenous-specific racism within BC’s health care system and to lead a culture of anti-racism among the professionals we regulate. We encourage all health professionals to review the report and reflect on the findings.
- Racism in Health Care: An Apology to Indigenous People and a Pledge to Be Anti-Racist
- ReadLinks – Regulated health professionals have a duty to report racist behaviour in the health system
- ReadLinks – BC’s Health Regulators welcome report from investigation into Indigenous-specific racism
- ReadLinks – In Plain Sight: Addressing Indigenous-specific Racism and Discrimination in B.C. Health Care