BRANTFORD — A Six Nations family took some very brave steps last week, speaking out against racist comments they witnessed during a visit to a Brantford pediatric dental office.
Whitney Hill brought her eight year old daughter to Peachtree Kids Dental in Brantford for a procedure that required general anesthesia. While they were waiting for the child to wake up, Hill said she overheard the anesthesiologist treating her child and Peachtree Kids Dental office receptionist making racist generalizations about their First Nations patients.
Hill shared in a post on her Facebook timeline, “I over heard the receptionist and anesthesiologist having a conversation about how they don’t like to treat First Nations people, how we don’t have to pay for anything and that news papers write so that it looks like ‘oh the poor natives this and the poor natives that’.”
Hill said that when she initially made contact with Peachtree Kids Dental about the incident, through a post to their official Facebook page, it was immediately deleted by management. That was when Hill shared the experience on her personal Facebook.
That post went viral, being shared across the province over 1000 times in just twenty four hours.
“I’m so glad nothing went wrong with Abigail’s procedure because I don’t feel like they would do everything possible to save my child’s life,” Hill wrote.
Hill told the Two Row Times she arrived early for her appointment but was left waiting for two hours in the waiting room because of an unforeseen delay with the patient scheduled before her daughter.
During that time in the waiting room Hill said she witnessed a second conversation be-tween two clinic guests in the waiting room, making racist generalizations about First Nations people.
Hill said, “The guy in the waiting room was talking to another girl, pointed right at my dad and said ‘You don’t have to go up north to see an Indian inhaling paint fumes, just go to the reservation around here’ and then the girl just laughed.”
Hill was sitting in the reception area with her father, Steve Hill, who is a teacher in Brant County, said that the problem is not only having racist opinions, but facilitating an environment that permits racism to be spoken out loud without protocol to stop it.
Hill said the office receptionist called him and offered an apology, explaining that she felt obligated to support the anesthesiologist in his conversation because he held a higher position.
Hill told Two Row Times, “If you’re going to run a professional office, your staff should never feel obligated to follow a hierarchical system if it is saying racist things. That is facilitating institutional racism.”
Dr. Bobak Mehdi, owner of Peachtree Kids Dental, also spoke with Two Row Times and said he established his business in Brantford with a specific initiative of serving the Six Nations and urban indigenous community’s pediatric dental needs.
Mehdi said in a written statement about the incident, “It is also a very clear policy with my staff that we will treat all patients the same way. As an immigrant to Canada myself, I understand the pain associated with discrimination and I have zero tolerance for it in my own business.”
Mehdi said the anesthesiologist is an independent contractor with his own sleep dentistry practise in London, Ontario and not a direct employee of Peachtree Kids Dental.
Since the incident was reported, Mehdi said he has apologized to both Hill and her father, and has terminated his relationship with the anesthesiologist. Although initially Mehdi said the receptionist would also be terminated, Hill said she was informed Tuesday night that was not the case.
Mehdi announced via the company’s Facebook page he asked Steve Hill to facilitate sensitivity training with their staff. “We believe this is a critical component of any diversity initiative, such as our plan to build and sustain a workplace culture that is empowered by differences. Ultimately, we hope to bring awareness, knowledge and action to this adverse epidemic.”
It was not known at press time if Hill has accepted the invitation.