Arviat project receives funding to look at racism in health care

Initiative gets $450,000 to identify, address issues related to systemic racism and discrimination

By Meral Jamal

A community-based initiative from Arviat that will look at racism in health-care is one of 46 projects to receive money through a federal research fund.

The project will receive $450,000 of the $19.2 million provided to projects nation-wide through the Race, Gender and Diversity initiative from the federal Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, in partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research

It aims to address issues relating to systemic racism and discrimination against underrepresented and disadvantaged groups.

To do that, it hopes to foster the co-creation of new knowledge, capacity-building and knowledge mobilization among non-academic partner organizations and academics.

Shirley Tagalik, a board member with the Aqqiumavvik Society, said another goal of the project involves improving the access to perinatal information and support Inuit women receive locally. (Photo provided by Arctic Corridors Research)

The research in Arviat is a collaboration between Inuit organizations including Inuit Tapariit Kanatami, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Aqqiumavvik Society in Arviat and Zoua Vang, an associate professor in the sociology department at McGill University.

They will look at anti-Indigenous racism and cultural safety in health-care for Inuit mothers and children.

Vang said the idea came about after discussions with mothers in the hamlet who said they experienced racism when seeking maternal care, both within Arviat and when travelling for birth to Winnipeg.

She said a big reason Inuit mothers experience racism is that doctors and nurses, as well as Nunavummiut themselves, are flown in and out of the territory in order to both provide and receive certain health services. 

For Vang, an important step in addressing anti-Inuit racism is to build capacity locally. 

“I think that real, long-term cultural safety solutions to things like systemic racism in health-care is to actually have local Inuit provide the services rather than relying on a system where not non-Inuit are being flown in to provide health-care services on a continual basis,” she said. 

At the same time, Vang said, a big goal of the project is to empower Inuit mothers who do have to travel out of the territory to access health-care and birthing services to advocate for themselves when they are subjected to racism and mistreatment. 

“Through our collaborations with patients, we want to find ways to co-create short-term cultural safety strategies that can strengthen an Inuit patient’s self-advocacy, so they can feel empowered when they’re speaking with healthcare providers,” she said.

Aqqiumavvik Society board member Shirley Tagalik said another goal involves improving access to pregnancy information and support that Inuit women receive locally. This includes local support programs, midwives and advocacy for a birthing centre within the community.

She said it’s especially important given the high birth rates within the community. 

In the 2016 census, Arviat — with a population at the time of about 2,600 — had the highest birth rate in Canada with 60 to 70 babies born each year to residents.

“This project is built around [questions like]: how do we bring the necessary information to have a healthy pregnancy to our women? How do we bring information to the families that are supporting these women, especially their partners?” Tagalik said.

“How do we create programs that can work from the earliest stages of pregnancy and follow mothers right through until they begin accessing our early childhood programs?”

She added, “Then we look at how we as community organizations provide the support through trained personnel,” she added, “and everything else that can be done to improve pregnancy and birth outcomes so that these women have a better pregnancy even if they have to be sent out to give birth.” 

For both Vang and Tagalik, the research is just the first step in addressing the many challenges Inuit mothers face.

If the Arviat project is successful, they hope it can become an example for greater change in pregnancy services available across the territory.

Correction: This story has been updated to correctly indicate how much money the Arviat project will receive.

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(27) Comments:

  1. Posted by Unreal on

    19.2 million, what a staggering misuse of resources.

    • Posted by Moral Panic @ the disco on

      Anti-racism and diversity training are part of a billion dollar industry. To keep the money flowing be sure to spot racism everywhere.

  2. Posted by Same old axe, same old grind on

    Quote: ““I think that real, long-term cultural safety solutions to things like systemic racism in health-care is to actually have local Inuit provide the services rather than relying on a system where not non-Inuit are being flown in to provide health-care services on a continual basis,” she said. ”

    So when are Inuit going to get on board with that plan, and actually provide their own “culturally safe” health care? We hear about this year after year, while the territory stays voluntarily dependent on “outsiders” of the wrong races, who they resent for taking the jobs that the local and more “culturally safe” population refuses to become trained for and reliably do.

    It’s been decades that nursing education has been available in the territory, either free or at huge subsidy (with other benefits too) for Inuit. I don’t know how another 19 million dollar study (gee, somebody has money) is going to fix that. I know though that it helps to fan the flames of racism in Nunavut, rather than decrease it, which ultimately helps nobody.

    Do Inuit realize that people in the south are looked after by workers of all races, and not just people of their own race and ethnicity? Competence is what matters, or should.

    • Posted by Ragin Ronnie on

      Its like when a pair of young dentists turned up in Iqaluit. Ready to do business. They happened to mention the oral health of Innuit was poor. They were driven out of town. What ya gotta have is an Inuit to say the same thing for it not to be taken as rascist?

    • Posted by Crystal Clarity on

      I believe almost 35% of health care workers (nurses, doctors, dentists, aids, etc,) are from immigrant stock ie a very diverse cultural group. Inuit in general are very abusive to non-white health care providers. Ironic enough and as racist as that sounds I have seen it so many times. I am always amazed at how abusive people can be towards health care providers. It’s no wonder fewer and fewer elect to work in the Nunavut. Same thing happening with other professions as well like teaching. We are hitting a crisis point. How many Health Centres are still operating on Emergency Only status because there are not enough staff. who would want to work in a place where people are always abusive. There are much better places to work.

  3. Posted by 867 on

    interesting, no mention of the abuse, harassment and racism that health care workers from the south experience when they come up to work in nunavut?

    19.2 million dollars that will be spent on research where I can almost guarantee the outcome will be a recommendation in the tune of “we need more training and funding available for inuit to become licensed health care practitioners”.

  4. Posted by Reality on

    Will the study include the attitude and behavior inuit exhibit towards nursing staff? Or will the other side of the story be ignored as per usual?

  5. Posted by Truestory on

    People. Racism will ALWAYS exist. You can just waste money on it to try and fix it. Put the money into building houses instead.

  6. Posted by Here’s A Thought on

    … also study the racism of so many Inuk patients towards their health care providers in the communities and how such unacceptable attitudes can be reduced.

    There is a reason that health care professionals give the smaller communities a pass.

  7. Posted by oh boy here we go AGAIN on

    I hope this group has audits done on their books that the tax payers can access? let’s open it up to be transparent to the tax payers please. let’s see org structure, shareholders, salaries, contracts to family, rental agreements, paid consultants etc…

    Surely we could put $19,000,000 to better uses than this


    • Posted by Inuk guy on

      You hit the nail on the head. This group in Arviat needs to be audited by office of OAG.

      • Posted by Confused on

        Arviat that will look at racism in health-care is “One of 46 PROJECTS” to receive money through a federal research fund.

        The project racism, Arviat will receive $450,000 of the $19.2 million provided to projects nation-wide…

        Not the whole 19 million dollars ?

        • Posted by Corrected Info on

          Yes, but when this story was first posted it said 19 million for the entire project, notice at the bottom it was corrected. You can’t blame people for reacting to the information they were given.

  8. Posted by P.oor j.ob on

    Another family bonus. For profit business doing well, extremely well. The monies for this could have been used as incentives to attract health care professionals. We need more service and gratitude to our health care team. Not look for racists rumors.
    To everyone who works at health we support you and thank you for your service.

  9. Posted by Former Insider on

    Many years ago a 3rd year nursing student worked in our department for the summer. She wanted to do “something different” before becoming a full time nurse. Before the end of the summer she told me that there were 6 nurses in her class and that 3 of them had already told the others that, when they graduated from nursing in Nunavut, they would leave Nunavut and not return. They would work elsewhere in Canada.
    I did not ask why. I’ve never seen GN statistics about how many graduate from nursing in Nunavut and how many of those work in Nunavut thereafter.
    What is the GN doing, or failing to do, that is driving away those few that are being trained? Now that is a research project that could yield actionable data and valuable insight.

    • Posted by NAC Nursing Student on

      Half of my graduating class is leaving too because they can’t find housing in NU and can get guaranteed jobs in other jurisdictions before graduating. New graduates are not eligible for indeterminate employment with the GN which means no staff housing. Nunavut graduates also usually have to wait 3-5 months to secure mentorship or a CSA whereas you can get a job waiting for you in the south while you are still in school.

      The GN is subsidizing the education of nurses and then makes it more difficult to work for them than southern hospitals.

      • Posted by No Change on

        The GN seems to have learned nothing in the past 10 years. Everyone still busy “doing their thing” in their own little silo, with no consideration of the big picture.
        Like they say in French, “Plus ca change, plus ca reste la meme choise.” (the more things change, the more they stay the same.)

        PJ, its your job as Premier to get your Ministers to require that their employees work together towards Nunavut’s objectives.
        Don’t tell us you are still working on your mandate. In the end, it will be just about the same as the five previous mandates.
        You are 7 months into a 48 month term and what direction have you set for your team of 5000? That’s 35,000 wasted person-months. How many more person-months will be wasted before clear directions are given that will focus the efforts of GN employees on the single goal of improving the lives of all Nunavummiut?
        Start by improving the lives of those living in the worst conditions. The smallest changes there will have the biggest impact.

    • Posted by Circumpolar Research on

      Here’s some research on the retention problem health professionals in the circumpolar region:
      “the importance of loving and belonging. “Sense of belonging” refers to the human need for social connectedness. It is what makes an individual feels like an “insider” and can arise from, for example, being greeted by name, having a say in community affairs, being able to participate in local groups and activities and more.” “Developing a “sense of belonging” requires reciprocity between the physician and the community. Rural medicine is challenging, often pushing physicians to practice beyond their comfort zone and be self-reliant. However, feeling that their hard work and efforts are appreciated by community members provides physicians with strong motivation to stay.”

      • Posted by Alternate Reality on

        Insightful post.

        It seems that in Nunavut the alternative to making people feel a sense of belonging and connectedness is to spend millions on research to prove, once and for all, that they are really just a bunch of racists.

        Interesting strategy.

    • Posted by NAC Nursing Student on

      I’m a nursing student in Nunavut and only half my class is planning on staying in Nunavut.

      The main reasons are housing and wait times after graduating. New Nunavut grads are not eligible for indeterminate employment which means no housing. AND you can line up a job at a southern hospital while you are still in school. The GN typically makes you wait months after graduation to get a CSA or start their mentorship program.

      The GN heavily subsidizes nursing education but then it is so much easier to find a job in the south that Nunavut nurses have no real incentive to stay.

  10. Posted by Surreal on

    “In the 2016 census, Arviat — with a population at the time of about 2,600 — had the highest birth rate in Canada with 60 to 70 babies born each year to residents.”

    And yet not a peep about birth control or family planning in this? Unbelievable.

    • Posted by Things we don’t talk about on

      You didn’t get the memo? The epidemic-level birth rate is something that we don’t talk about it Nunavut.

      Instead, every child born to a teenage mom with an 8th grade education is to be considered a “blessing from god himself”.

      Don’t worry, the next generation can deal with the housing crisis, the education crisis, and the dwindling animal populations.

  11. Posted by Binky the Doormat on

    We should all be a little gobsmacked that a country running a 52-billion-dollar deficit this year is handing over 19 million to a group determined to prove anti-Inuit racism exists in health care and calling it research. Consider the incentive structure here. Is there any chance this ‘research’ will falsify its hypothesis? *snort*

    To be fair, that is not all that is going on here, it will also:

    “Foster the co-creation of new knowledge, capacity-building and knowledge mobilization among non-academic partner organizations and academics.”

    Definitely sounds impressive, depending on your perspective. But then creating a veneer of legitimacy and authority is a good deal of what academic and industry specific jargon is meant to do. Which is also to admit that flowery language of this sort can, at times, serve to obscure the truly mundane, if not vacuous content that can lie beneath.

    Meaningful research doesn’t start with a conclusion. “New-knowledge” isn’t created when you begin and end with the same certainties.

    Still, as the article tells us, this is “just the beginning.” Undoubtedly. It appears a new industry has been born, a new kind of economy. Not mining, not hunting or fishing, but something completely new—the production of narratives we can pretend to call ‘knowledge.’ Apparently, it pays quite well.

    Now let me shift gears.

    Notice the racial dimension is only one part of this story, to be fair. Childhood education, midwifery and information on healthy pregnancies are net positives. Admittedly, framing that in newspeak as ‘cultural safety’ has an eye rolling, even cynicizing effect.

    So why is race emphasized? Why does the headline make it appear this is all about race, nothing else?

    I suspect a small handful of reasons to do with clicks, reader engagement, site visits and comments. You, dear reader, have been manipulated, and I assume that is good for business.

  12. Posted by Old timer on

    This funding will need to be audit.

  13. Posted by Arviat Guess on

    Us in arviat no the 1000.00 will be used for this and all will be a family business profit someone needs to step in and start doing a audit.

  14. Posted by why not on

    so let me get this one. a white person is going to be looking at racist so why not have a inuk look after it?

  15. Posted by Proof Readers Wanted on

    Man, all this hullabaloo over 19 million dollars when the real expense was 450K all along. Need to work on that proof reading I guess.


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