`HISTORICAL FAILURES’: Manitoba College of Physicians and Surgeons apologizes to Indigenous people 

By Dave Baxter

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba (CPSM) has apologized for what it said was its long-standing role in contributing to anti-Indigenous racism in the local health-care system and for how that racism affected generations of Indigenous people and communities.

“CPSM’s failure to regulate the medical profession’s current and past racist treatment of Indigenous peoples is a tragic part of CPSM’s 150-year history,” the CPSM said on Tuesday.

` `CPSM apologizes to First Nations, Metis and Inuit children, families, and Elders for the racism that has occurred in their medical care, whether it was in the care they received, or should have received but did not.”

According to the CPSM website, since being founded in 1871, their mandate has been to “protect the public as consumers of medical care, and promote the safe and ethical delivery of quality medical care by physicians in Manitoba.”

In their apology, the organization said it has not properly addressed anti-Indigenous racism that has come both from medical professionals and from the health-care system.

“CPSM recognizes the historical failures of the medical profession to address the racist and consequently substandard medical care provided. CPSM recognizes the collective role of the medical profession in providing medical care to Indigenous peoples which is impacted by systemic colonial values, individual biases, and racist attitudes,” the organization said.

The organization also said that racism in the health-care system and among health-care professionals in Manitoba has historically led to, and continues to lead to poor health outcomes for Indigenous people in Manitoba, resulting in the “suffering and deaths of a disproportionate number of Indigenous patients.”

A University of Manitoba study released in 2019 said that the “health gap” between First Nations people and non-First Nations people in this province was growing, as it showed an 11-year age gap between life expectancy for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, up from a seven-year gap that was recorded in 2002.

“Racism by medical professionals, like many social determinants of health, has a negative impact on health outcomes. We apologize for the intergenerational trauma, suffering, poor health outcomes, and death that this has caused,” CPSM said.

CPSM said they now pledge to “take action” against Indigenous-specific racism and to “support and guide Manitoba physicians, residents, students, clinical assistants, and physician assistants to recognize and call out acts of racism against Indigenous persons.”

Kathy Merrick, the Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

(AMC) said Indigenous leaders are now “cautiously optimistic” that CPSM will follow through on the improvements they have pledged to make.

She said that representatives with the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba recently met with CPSM officials to discuss ways to address anti-Indigenous racism in the local health-care system.

“This formal apology is only a beginning to address those barriers of systemic racism in health care that affect patient safety,” Merrick said. “It is incumbent on all of us to improve the treatment and care for First Nations people.”

Dr. Mary Jane McCallum, a history professor at the University of Winnipeg and an expert in Indigenous history, said in a 2022 interview with the Winnipeg Sun that she often hears from Indigenous people who say that when they enter health-care facilities in this country, they immediately assume they will be forced to deal with racism and negative stereotypes.

“Many Indigenous people still anticipate racism when going to a hospital or health-care facility,” McCallum said.

She added that systemic racism in this country’s health-care system has led to a system that values Indigenous people less than non-Indigenous people.

“It produces an indifference to Indigenous suffering,” McCallum said.

– Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.



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