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Siksika Nation seeks accounts of racist treatment in Alberta health-care system


Siksika Nation has taken an initial step toward a potential lawsuit after more than a dozen members reported receiving racist and discriminatory health care treatment in Alberta.

Chief and council passed a motion in February to begin information-gathering interviews conducted by Vancouver and Victoria-based law firm, JFK Law Corporation.

"We're here to make sure our people are treated equitably in the health-care system," said Chief Ouray Crowfoot from the Siksika Nation tribal administration building on Friday. 

"Once we have all that collection of data then we'll make our decision on what our next steps will be."

Siksika Nation members can contact the law firm or Siksika Health Services directly to participate — there is no timeline for participation and the Chief says the interviews will be confidential and are open to any Indigenous Albertan who wants to come forward.

They are looking for accounts from members who feel they were treated negatively based on their race or ethnicity as a patient, or if they witness discrimination carried out with the Alberta health care system.

Siksika Nation leaders say they heard of mistreatment happening at nearby hospitals in Vulcan and Strathmore, and also within the city of Calgary. 

"We don't want to say that the whole Alberta health system is corrupt or horrible. There's some great people in those systems," said Chief Crowfoot.

While the option of a lawsuit is on the table, Siksika Nation leaders say this process is the first step toward multiple outcomes to hold Alberta leaders and health providers accountable.

"I'm also disappointed that we've had to take these type of measures in order to get the attention of our government both federal and provincial," said Tyler White, CEO of Siksika Health Services and public member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta.

White said there have been symbolic gestures of unity, such as the raising of the Siksika Nation flag in front of the Strathmore District Health Services hospital, but he wants levels of government to take further action. 

"You can't have reconciliation without accountability," said Coun. Samuel Crowfoot.

He mentioned the Sep. 2020 death of 37-year-old Joyce Echaquan, an Atikamekw woman and mother of seven who video recorded racist treatment by health-care providers in a Quebec hospital shortly before dying.

The video prompted several inquiries, a lawsuit from Echaquan's family against the hospital, and Quebec's coroner tearfully told reporters nearly one year later that Echaquan would not have died if she were white.

"It's fine to talk about reconciliation but where it's the actual progress we want to make sure that's being done," said Crowfoot. 

The population of the Siksika Nation is estimated to be more than 7,800 people, and is part of the Blackfoot Confederacy. Top Stories

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