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
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.
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.