Registrar's message: health worker experiences of discrimination in the health-care system

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has assembled a team, established terms of reference, and initiated two surveys to collect and assess the experiences of Indigenous people in accessing health-care services in the province, and health-care professionals who work in the system. The health-care workers’ survey asks respondents about the impact of discriminatory behaviours or actions on Indigenous patients and their family members, as well as whether (and in what ways) health-care workers are affected by these matters personally in the workplace. 

The investigation will include an examination of racism at both the individual and systemic level. Regulatory frameworks and practices within the health-care sector will also be reviewed to see if through acts or omissions they have contributed to systemic racism towards Indigenous people in BC. 

The College has extended its full support to Ms. Turpel-Lafond and is committed to reviewing and responding to the terms of reference and will act on any recommendations directed towards regulators in her report.

While we would be deeply disappointed and concerned if any of our registrants are identified as participants in the “game,” as Ms. Turpel-Lafond has said, this is not about naming and shaming but about truth-telling and healing. We view this as a time for reflection on processes and practices, and our own unconscious and systemic biases. 

On March 1, 2017, registrars of all of BC’s health regulators signed the Declaration of Commitment – Cultural Safety and Humility in the Regulation of Health Professionals Serving First Nations and Aboriginal People in British Columbia. The signing ceremony formalized our commitment to integrating cultural safety and humility into our operations and practices. Our commitment followed the landmark commitment to cultural safety and humility made by the First Nations Health Authority, the BC Ministry of Health, and the six other health authorities in 2015. The recently published three-year report provides an overview of some of our activities since signing the declaration.

While the College has made a public declaration to enhancing its cultural competency skills and practices, we fully acknowledge that we have lots to learn on this important journey. There is no doubt that Ms. Turpel-Lafond’s investigation and findings will reveal new opportunities for us all to grow and discover.

I would personally like to encourage all of you to participate in this process by completing the health-care workers’ survey or by sharing information via email (addressing_racism@gov.bc.ca) or telephone (toll-free 1-888-600-3078). The deadline for responding is August 27, 2020.

More information about the investigation is available on the BC Government’s Addressing Racism website.

Heidi M. Oetter, MD
Registrar and CEO