Doctors at McMaster warned using CAS against indigenous families a “horrific” repeat of historical trauma

A hall full of Oncologists and national press gathered to hear the parents of Makayla Sault and the mother of J.J. speak at McMaster University.

Both families were invited to read prepared statements as part of a community panel addressing the prejudice they recently faced in the healthcare system and media – and why indigenous people continue to have traumatic experiences in the healthcare system.

Sonya Sault said her daughter Makayla’s experience at McMaster Children’s Hospital was traumatizing. “Every time Makayla approached the hospital her body began shaking,” she said. “She never got over the fear she experienced when she heard her parents threatened with jail and she and her brothers threatened with apprehension.”

J.J.’s mother read a written statement and clarified that she will be willing to share her story once the March 13th deadline for appeal to her case has passed.

“I have met with provincial government representatives who have been respectful and compassionate,” she said. “The issue is not whether traditional medicine will be respected but how it will be respected. And how and when the two systems can work together.”

Makayla’s mother Sonya Sault read an emotional written statement about their experiences at McMaster Children’s Hospital.

She also sought to correct inaccuracies reported about the child across national media.

Sault clarified that after Makayla’s diagnosis of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia with a positive Philadelphia Chromosome the child was given a 72% survival rate – if she made it through the five or more years of chemotherapy.

“Not 90%, not 95% – 72%,” she read. “We also learned from doctors at McMaster that chemotherapy is less effective and more punishing for indigenous children. The reasons for this are ‘not well understood’ we were told. In other words – [Makayla] had a 1 in 3 chance of dying from leukemia with the chemotherapy.”

Sault said chemotherapy took such a horrific toll on their child that doctors declared her a “mystery child.”

They also bravely confronted the erroneous media reports and opinions their family has been subject to following the child’s case making world news headlines over the last year. She said, “The controversy, attention and inaccurate reporting have caused our family so much distress we have not been able to truly mourn Makayla.”

Sault addressed media criticisms of her choice to travel to the Hippocrates Health Institute, saying it was upsetting to see her private family vacation exploited by the members of the press.

Dr. Dawn Martin Hill, Associate Professor of Indigenous Studies at McMaster University, spoke about how prejudices about indigenous people latent in the foundations of the healthcare system and mainstream media create great psychological distress for indigenous people across Canada.

A newspaper article from a large Canadian newspaper was quoted which criticized the choice both families made to travel to the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida. Martin-Hill addressed the truth of the matter in its proper context.

“Neither family went to Florida seeking alternative medicine,” she said. “They fled Canada: fleeing threats of apprehension, incarceration and hostile acts of aggression. In the US they found peace. Think about that. A safe place. That is all. Hope we cleared that up. They did not go there for any other reason than to get away from what was going on here.”

Martin-Hill said that in all of Canada’s reconciliation with First Nations people, the healthcare community has never been a part of those discussions.
“The healthcare industry has not only never acknowledged there is a problem, they refuse to discuss any role they may have played in the unethical practices towards First Nations,” said Martin-Hill.

“Collaboration not coercion,” Martin-Hill said. “Using CAS or courts to apprehend First Nations children is loaded with horrific unjust actions Canadian institutions have exacted on First Nations people opening up deep wounds of historical trauma.”

Martin-Hill again invited the McMaster Children’s Hospital and Hamilton Health Sciences to work with the McMaster Indigenous Studies department to collaborate and ensure that staff are aware of the historical traumas enacted upon First Nations people by the healthcare system so staff are better able to treat indigenous patients effectively.

“I am aware there are many good doctors here at McMaster. We need your support. We need you to stand up and work with us. I know you are here,” said Martin-Hill. “We need integrative policies and practices so that J.J. does not have to be in a hostile environment.”

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6 Comments

  1. My question is why is this article about the treatment of first nation people and their cultures? why isnt the article more about the abuse of power by these doctors with threats of calling the CAS if you do not comply with their demands. it is not only first nations people that this happens to. this happens to all ethnicities of people regardless of their cultural back grounds. hospitals and doctors alike need to learn as well as the CAS that the child and family services act GUARANTEES parents the right to consent or refuse medical treatment of their child based on their own personal beliefs. No person has the right to threaten you with the removal of your child if you do not comply to their way of thinking. This happens everyday in this province. I am sorry this happened to these first nation families but I have to be honest I am also really tired of reading about all the special treatment they have to be given simply because of their cultural backgrounds. the charter of rights and freedoms GUARANTEES all persons to be treated EQUAL. So how is it that they are to recieve special treatment and given special treatment simply because they are native? Does that mean my children are any less important to society because they are born white? I agree we need to respect their cultural differences but if we are going to continue to give them special treatment simply because of their backgrounds then we better clear off the old water fountains that seperated whites from non whites because we are going back to the days of segregation. its time that CAS and the hospitals and doctors start to respect ALL of our rights to decide what is best for our children and the best course of action and medical treatment to be taken if any. Currently the biggest political topic going on is regarding immunizations and CAS and doctors threatening the removal of children from our care if you dont immunize. are we all that naive to forget that immunizations are NOT mandatory and you have the right to not immunize if it goes against your personal beliefs? Time to wake up here people, our rights are slowly being taken away from us by big brother telling us what we can and cant do with our children and how to raise them. Kind of makes you sit back and wonder why we see so many kids in gangs with guns due to lack of discipline these days. Parents are afraid to discipline them due to CAS threatening removal. growing up in my time we didnt have these problems because we feared punishment from our parents. society has gone way to far to the right in political correctness and we need to start balancing things back out.

  2. Way to soft-peddle that scumbag Brian Clement and the Hippocrates institute. Another white man ripping off FN people with false promises. And now someone’s dead.

  3. It is about time Canada finally woke up and really start working with its’ First Nations people.

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