The legacy of residential schools lives on in Canada’s healthcare system
“We didn’t know what he was on.”
That’s what the emergency room physician said to me when I asked why my father, then 49, wasn’t sedated even though he was on a ventilator and in shock. My dad is alive today because I was a second-year internal medicine resident and was able to get to the emergency room and take control of the health care he was receiving.
It was the most traumatic moment of my life.
I relived the impact of that systemic racism when Brian Sinclair died. When Joyce Echaquan died. When Eishia Hudson died. And again when the bodies of 215 children, who died at the Kamloops Indian Residential School and were buried in unmarked graves, were found.
Each tragic discovery or incident is an opportunity to act. But repeatedly Canada’s decision is no action — or insufficient action, and the next thing happens and we’re forced to grieve and call for action again.
Like many of my Indigenous physician colleagues, the anger and grief of these incidents has shaped my career — providing powerful fuel to lead change even when, and especially when, there is resistance to that change. We work for the safety of our loved ones and remain unwilling to settle for the status quo that inaction upholds.