First Nation health ombudsperson’s office to be established in Saskatchewan

SASKATOON — An ombudsperson’s office being created in Saskatchewan will be the first in Canada to help address racism against Indigenous people trying to get health-care services.

“There has been a long history of negative, and sometimes tragic, interactions between First Nations people and health-care providers or hospitals,” Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations said in a news release Tuesday. The federation represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan.

Cameron said the office will work to ensure that First Nations people feel safe to report discrimination they have faced while seeking health services.

Until now, Indigenous people in the province who faced racial discrimination in health care didn’t have much recourse, he said.

The new office will include advocates to help resolve conflicts and to try to bring about systemic changes. The federal government is providing $1.17 million in support.

Addressing racism in health care needs to be done across the country, the release said.

Such racism was thrust into the spotlight by Joyce Echaquan, a 37-year-old Indigenous mother who used her phone to video mistreatment she received in a Quebec hospital before her 2020 death. The images were streamed online. A coroner’s inquiry later found that racism and prejudice contributed to her death.

A report by a Senate committee on human rights released last year found coerced sterilization of Indigenous women was still happening in health-care settings in Canada. A separate report looking at health care in British Columbia found Indigenous patients continue to disproportionately die from the effects of racism.

Federal Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu said in the news release that the Saskatchewan office will ensure First Nations people have a voice in any services they receive and a venue to formally address concerns.

“This is just one important step of many needed in addressing anti-Indigenous racism and discrimination in health care.”

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