The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) welcomes the one-year anniversary of the release of In Plain Sight: Addressing Indigenous-specific Racism and Discrimination in B.C. Health Care (IPS) as an opportunity to reflect on the progress made in the last year, while recognizing there is still a long way to go to eradicate Indigenous-specific racism in health care.
As stated by Elder Wickaninnish (Cliff Atleo Sr.), one way to combat racism is through a zero tolerance policy— refusing to accept instances of racism and holding ourselves and our partners accountable to address and prevent Indigenous-specific racism in the health care system and beyond.
Our leadership statement says, what happens to communities and the people we serve happens to us. In the last few years, this has meant prioritizing the COVID-19 pandemic, toxic drug supply public health emergency, climate impacts including heat, fires, and now flooding, discovery of unmarked graves and anti-Indigenous racism in health care, which all continue to heavily impact First Nations in BC.
The FNHA, alongside our governance partners the First Nations Health Council (FNHC) and the First Nations Health Directors Association (FNHDA), have held multiple sessions with First Nations in BC on these important topics to keep our work grounded in First Nations needs and priorities, as expressed by Chiefs and Health Directors, including evaluation of progress. Over the last two years, the FNHA supported over 144 engagements with First Nations (above ongoing engagements such as regional level events) on important health matters such as COVID-19, healing, toxic drug supply, wildfires, planning, and transformation of health programs and services.
The FNHA continues work to implement an anti-Indigenous racism, Cultural Safety and Humility (CSH) framework and action plan, jointly developed with the FNHC and the FNHDA, focused on First Nations-led responses, regionally driven innovation and continuous improvement.
The FNHA, in partnership with the Health Standards Organization, is developing a new BC CSH standard that was shared out for public review in 2021. The public consultation period has been closed and the committee is reviewing the over 1,100 comments received. The CSH standard will be finalized in 2022 for implementation in the health care system.
The FNHA feels that it needs to role model cultural safety in the services it provides, establishing a Quality Care and Safety Office that offers a safe avenue for First Nations clients to provide complaints and compliments. Meanwhile, regional teams are working with regional health authority partners to advance solutions for First Nations people across BC. The work done in the Fraser Salish Region is a clear example of establishing new avenues to address racism at a regional, closer to home context.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the FNHA has worked in partnership with First Nations leadership and the regional health authorities to provide a culturally safe public health response. With our partners, the FNHA has established vaccine clinics in and around First Nations communities.
As of Nov. 28, 2021 80 per cent of First Nations people have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 72.3 per cent have received a second dose. Vaccine coverage among status and status eligible First Nations living in BC continues to increase each week. With third doses and booster doses newly available in BC, we are now working with our partners to deliver community vaccination clinics and access for First Nations citizens living in urban centres. To date, 15,080 First Nations people have received a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The FNHA works with First Nations leadership and service providers to increase vaccine uptake and access to culturally safe and emotionally supported clinic spaces. Additional FNHA support is detailed in our Community Support Guide and current, relevant and accurate information is provided on the FNHA's social media platforms, the FNHA website and the FNHA app.
The FNHA is active in implementing the IPS report. The FNHA chief executive officer is one of three co-chairs of a provincial task team created in response to the report. With working groups formed under the task team, the FNHA Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nel Wieman is chair of the Complaints Working Group, while FNHC Chairman Wade Grant is chair of the Legislation Working Group.
Our organization is committed to continuing the journey of increasing CSH and eliminating anti- Indigenous racism with First Nations in BC and our other partners, thereby creating a safer health system that will result in better health outcomes for First Nations people.
In discussing the work underway to address racism, we must recognize the critical role of the Indian Residential School Society (IRSS), Tsow-Tun Le Lum, and other cultural support groups who have stepped forward and provided support not only to individuals navigating the complaints system, but also health care staff who are affected. We could not do this work without you.
First Nations Health Authority, First Nations Health Council, First Nations Health Directors Association Task Team Members:
Richard Jock, FNHA Chief Executive Officer (Task Team Co-Chair)
Wade Grant, FNHC Chair (Chair, Legislation Working Group)
Dr. Nel Wieman, FNHA Deputy Chief Medical Officer (Chair, Complaints Working Group)
Judy Maas, FNHDA, Interior Region
Ko'waintco Michel, FNHC representative, Interior Region
Bev Lambert, FNHC representative, Northern Region
Tania Dick, FNHC representative, Vancouver Island Region
Dr. Sheila Blackstock, FNHA Board of Directors
Michelle DeGroot, Vice President Regional Operations, Fraser Salish Region
Ts'i:m (Grand Chief Doug Kelly), Fraser Salish Region
Learn more about cultural safety and humility
For mental health counselling and cultural supports, please visit the FNHA Mental Health and Wellness Support page.
Read more about COVID-19 vaccines.