Chemotherapy is administered to a cancer patient via intravenous drip at Duke Cancer Center in Durham, N.C., on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Gerry Broome

Train health-care providers to ditch racism as part of Canada’s cancer strategy: report

The new strategy for cancer control also prioritizes the needs of Indigenous Peoples

When Dr. Evan Adams walked into an emergency room in Vancouver with a cut finger, a clerk taking his information made a racist remark that stung.

“She said, ‘Oh, you’re First Nations.’ I said yes, and she said, ‘I hear you guys get everything for free.’”

“Was she trying to humiliate me? Was she having verbal diarrhea? Was she having a bad day? I don’t know what it was but I didn’t need that,” said Adams, medical officer of the First Nations Health Authority in British Columbia.

That recent experience was further confirmation of the “cultural humiliation” Adams said First Nations patients are familiar with as part of a health-care system they can’t trust — from front-line workers in clinics to nurses and doctors providing long-term cancer treatment.

The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer has identified the elimination of racism as a priority after a campaign last fall seeking feedback to update a national plan established in 2006 to tackle all aspects of cancer care.

Cindy Morton, CEO of CPAC, said 7,500 responses, including from patients, health-care workers and cancer agencies, as well as consultations across the country helped the non-profit organization establish overall priorities. Those include enhanced prevention and screening, faster diagnosis, adapting care for the specific needs of underserved groups, better support for patients and families and addressing unequal access to palliative and end-of-life care.

The new strategy for cancer control also prioritizes the needs of Indigenous Peoples, who were not consulted when the plan was initiated 13 years ago by CPAC, which will forward a report on Tuesday to federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor.

First Nations, Inuit and Metis require delivery of ”culturally safe” care closer to home, with all three groups involved as partners in cancer care that has been inequitable for them to start with, especially in rural and remote communities, Morton said.

“All three peoples told us that they still remain with a sense of discomfort and a lack of safety when they are dealing with non-Indigenous or not-culturally trained medical professionals. That is their number one priority, that we have to create a system where they feel they are treated in a non-discriminatory and respectful way.”

Mistrust of the system often prevents Indigenous groups from disclosing everything about their illness or their cultural beliefs that may include use of traditional medicine, Morton said, adding patients sometimes feel their symptoms are dismissed or they’re not taken as seriously when they complain of pain or get delayed access to care.

“There really is a systemic concern that there needs to be a different way to pay attention to the concerns and the needs of the Indigenous population when they’re going into a mainstream treatment system.”

Morton said she was struck by the challenges faced by people heading from Iqaluit to Ottawa for cancer treatment as she recently sat at the airport in the capital city of Nunavut.

“Many of them had never left Nunavut and many had never been on a plane, and suddenly they’re about to land in Ottawa.”

Residents of Nunavut said during consultations that they’d rather get cancer care in their own communities so they have the support of family and don’t have to travel hundreds of kilometres away, Morton said.

“It’s a very different world and we haven’t figured out yet how to meet their needs,” she said, adding mobile vans providing screening for breast and lung cancer, for example, could be one way to address the needs of remote communities where patients need to feel respected, first and foremost.

As part of its cancer strategy, CPAC has funded the Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association to develop a curriculum that would help deliver culturally appropriate care across the country, likely starting in 2022, Morton said.

Marilee Nowgesic, executive director of the association, said the curriculum would also provide training for social workers who often make travel arrangements for patients needing escorts to explain multiple issues involving cancer treatment to people whose languages don’t have words for chemotherapy and radiation, for example.

“They don’t understand how the white world works,” Nowgesic said.

“We’re saying to the non-Indigenous partner in the health-care profession, ‘You have a responsibility to look at how you’re going to engage authentically, meaningfully with patients.’ They’re looking at us and saying, ‘We have no idea.’

“We’re saying, ‘We’ll work with you.’ “

Nowgesic said culturally appropriate content should be a mandatory part of the nursing curriculum, not an elective, for care providers who are often shocked to hear about issues including the residential schools system and its legacy of racism for Indigenous communities.

She said the Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association is also working with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada as it develops a curriculum it wants adopted in 96 nursing schools across the country, with an aim to also have it used as a model for doctors in training.

“What we don’t want to see is when an Indigenous student is involved in the program that they’re expected to be the teacher.”

ALSO READ: ‘Now the real work begins:’ Families urge action after missing women inquiry report

ALSO READ: Changes to ‘Welfare Wednesday’ model must be careful, thought out: report

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Latest round of Columbia River Treaty talks wrap up

It was the first oppportunity for local Indigenous Nations to participate as observers

Runners hit the streets for Special Olympics

Cranbrook RCMP teamed up with Cranbrook Safeway on Saturday, June 22, for… Continue reading

School board reports January malware attack

Email systems compromised at board office and Fernie Learning Centre, according to memo

Bowen Byram goes fourth overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft

The Cranbrook native was picked by the Colorado Avalanche in the NHL draft

Residents asked to leave ‘fawn in area’ signs alone

Signs are there for the protection of deer and people

Air Canada reviewing how crew left sleeping passenger on parked plane

In a Facebook post, the woman said she woke up ‘all alone’ on a ‘cold dark’ aircraft

Thieves steal tents from B.C. school, Grade 7 camping trip happens anyway

Nanaimo businesses, school staff and parents ensure trip goes on

Disaster relief: four tips for coping with wildfires, smoky skies

Being shrouded in smoke or having to flee from wildfires can cause anxiety, stress, depression

Only legal pot shop between Vancouver and Kamloops now open

Private cannabis store on Skwah land in Chilliwack is first B.C. licensee to be Indigenous owned

Canadian communities responding to climate change

New research highlights state of local adaptation planning in Canada

Victoria woman in L.A. hospital after she was run over twice

Lynn Phillips has suffered from multiple broken bones and internal bleeding

‘Text neck’ causing bone spurs to grow from millennials’ skulls, researchers say

Technology use from early childhood causing abnormal bone growths in 41 per cent of young adults

B.C. judge defies lawyers and adds six months to man’s sex assault sentence

‘I find the joint submission is contrary to the public interest and I’m rejecting it’

Tiny Yorkshire terrier survives days on remote B.C. island

ROAM rescue crews, family searched for dog, missing in Greater Victoria for days

Most Read