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Fear of racism deters many Indigenous people from seeking medical treatment, says health-care leader
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Indigenous Canadians are avoiding going to the doctor or seeking care in hospitals, says the president of The Indigenous Physicians Association. The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact, but there's also another potentially deadly factor: racism. "People are fearing that they will be treated in a racist manner, or not receive the standard of care that a non-Indigenous person would," Dr. Cornelia (Nel) Wieman, tells Dr. Brian Goldman. Wieman, who is also a psychiatrist and senior medical officer at the First Nations Health Authority in Vancouver says the death of Joyce Echaquan has contributed to that fear. Echaquan, a 37-year old Atikamekw woman live-streamed her final moments at hospital Joliette, Quebec which revealed staff berating her. Dr. Wieman says the refusal of Quebec's premier to acknowledge systemic racism in the wake of that incident is a barrier to progress and she's concerned the inquiry into Echaquan's death will not probe the root causes of what happened to her. Despite that, and the racism she's faced in her own career, she's still hopeful progress can be made. She says one step forward would be to hold authorities at a higher level responsible for actions of healthcare workers who prove to be racist. She says Canada needs to increase the availability of cultural safety training for health-care workers, which was featured on a previous episode of White Coat, Black Art. We also speak to Gregory Buffalo, a Cree man from Fort McMurray who contacted White Coat, Black Art after listening to that program several times. He tells us why that show moved him, and shares his family's experiences dealing with racism in the healthcare system.