Quebec invests $15 million into improving health care for Indigenous patients

“We want to ensure that we strengthen cultural training and cultural safety”

Tulattavik Health Care Centre in Kuujjuaq is one of two hospitals in Nunavik. The reigonal health board hopes to access new provincial funding to pay for cultural awareness training for its staff. (File photo)

By Sarah Rogers

The Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services says it’s still waiting to hear whether it will receive a share of the $15 million in funding recently announced by the Quebec government to create “cultural security” for Indigenous people using the province’s health-care system.

“We want to ensure that we strengthen cultural training and cultural safety offers for the employees of our network,” the health board said in a Nov. 9 email to Nunatsiaq News.

“We absolutely want to benefit from this funding and be recognized as an important partner in decision-making, in order to ensure that it corresponds to the specific needs and realities of Nunavimmiut.”

The new funding is meant to fund cultural sensitivity training for non-Indigenous health-care staff, as well as liaison officers at health-care centres to help Indigenous patients navigate the system, the government announced on Nov. 6.

The announcement comes as a direct response to the recent death of Joyce Echaquan, a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman who filmed health-care workers at a Joliette hospital taunting her and making racists comments as she lay dying.

Her death sparked angry calls for reform and respect in Quebec’s health-care system, which have now prompted a public inquiry.

“We are determined to make a difference and to begin a new phase in our relations with First Nations and Inuit,” said Ian Lafrenière, Quebec’s newly appointed minister responsible for aboriginal affairs, last week.

“This approach that aims to meets their needs as well as their realities in the Quebec health and social services network is the first in a long series of measures that should help advance the fight against racism, as well as the respect for the dignity to which everyone has a right to within our public services.”

First Nations and Inuit groups who testified at Quebec’s Viens Commission spoke about various forms of discrimination they had faced within the health-care system. The public inquiry went on to recommend the province’s public services provide cultural safety specific to Indigenous groups.

For its part, the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services already offers cultural training to incoming staff; 225 new employees took this training between 2019 and 2020, the board said.

But the health board said it had yet to hear if and how it will receive some of this new funding from the province.

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