Mi’kmaq outraged over ‘racist’ note at New Brunswick doctor’s office

The sign reads: “ATTN: Native Patients. Please don’t ask for tranquilizers or pain medications.” Maxine Ginnish heard about the sign and went to Dr. Allister Carter’s family practice to see for herself.

Trina Roache
APTN National News
The sign reads: “ATTN: Native Patients. Please don’t ask for tranquilizers or pain medications.”

Maxine Ginnish heard about the sign and went to Dr. Allister Carter’s family practice to see for herself.

“My heart broke and I had to get out of there as soon as I could because I burst into tears,” said Ginnish. “It was the first time I’d ever seen proof of such racism.”

She posted of picture of the sign on Facebook. The outcry was immediate.

“Good old Miramichi for you not racist at all first nation people are not the only ones that Battle addiction this makes me sick to my stomach and something needs to be done,” wrote Christine Leigh Ward, who shared the photo on Thursday.

Ward’s post was shared over six hundred times in just the first few hours.

Ginnish is a social worker in addictions in the Eel Ground First Nation, just a few minutes way from Miramichi. She said addiction and opioid abuse affects all cultures and communities.

“So why do we have to stigmatize our people?” asked Ginnish. “Imagine if a First Nation cancer patient went in there looking for pain management. I mean, come on…It’s disheartening.”

Ginnish immediately informed her community leaders about the sign and said there was a flurry of phone calls to local health authorities and Health Canada.

“We need to have these discussions,” said Ginnish. “They’re uncomfortable but these things need to be said that racism is alive in our healthcare system.”

George Ginnish is the chief of the Eel Ground First Nation.

He was in a meeting and could not be reached for comment, but posted on Facebook: “Not really impressed with Health care providers racially profiling and denying certain medications based on race, especially when we have been trying to meet in regard to the opioid crisis in our nations and getting very few Doctors willing to meet and assist us with proactive measures.”

The chief assured people that he was told the “offending note” has been taken down, but added “…we need some follow up. If you aren’t part of the solution then you are part of the problem.”

Carter could not be reached for comment.

Malcolm Ward, from the Metepenagiag First Nation not far from Miramichi, drove to the doctor’s office after hearing about the sign. He wanted to make sure it was taken down. But the doctor’s office was closed.

“I’m pretty mad,” said Ward in a Facebook video outside the doctor’s office. “Let’s put an end to all this racism. It’s got to stop. I had enough of this. It’s 2017, folks. We have old school doctors writing notes like that, they shouldn’t even be in the business at all.”

Ward is urging people to write a complaint to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick.

Dr. Shawn Burke, a representative for the College, spoke briefly on the phone with APTN but called the sign a “non-story.”

Burke said it was his understanding the sign at Dr. Carter’s office had been written several years ago. He declined to comment further, saying he didn’t know enough about the situation at this time.

Ginnish said it doesn’t matter if the sign is old or new.

“We need to have more sensitivity and cultural awareness, especially with Canada 150,” said Ginnish. “Because we’re not celebrating. When you think of addiction from the structural viewpoint, it’s all a symptom of our colonization, our cultural loss of land, our language. And our people are being further stigmatized from seeking help.”

Ginnish said community leaders in Eel Ground have already filed complaints.

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Trina Roache brings 18 years of journalistic experience to APTN Investigates. A member of the Glooscap First Nation in unceded Mi’kmaw territory, Trina has covered Indigenous issues from politics to land protection, treaty rights and more. In 2014, Trina won the Journalists for Human Rights/CAJ award for her series on Jordan’s Principle. She was nominated again in 2017 for a series on healthcare issues in the remote Labrador community of Black Tickle. Trina’s favorite placed is behind the camera, and is honoured when the people living the story, trust her to tell it.

51 thoughts on “Mi’kmaq outraged over ‘racist’ note at New Brunswick doctor’s office

  1. I’m a Mi’kMaq from Gesgapegiac, Quebec. However, I live in the United States. I go up to visit my family and grow more and more frustrated over the racism after each visit!!!! I witnessed it over and over again!!!! The treatment given to the Natives by Non-Natives is definitely not subtle!!!! I was in a restaurant with my uncle and we were ignored by the waitress!!!! She waited on everyone who came in after us!!! I walked up to her and told her we wanted to order out meal. She had an attitude the entire time!!!! I deliberately left her a 50% tip to prove a point……DONT EVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER!!!! There’s good and bad in EVERY society!!!!

  2. Maybe he has 1st nation people asking for a larger amout of pain killers first. I do not agree with broad brushing in such a manner. Cases like cancer as someone mentioned in the posts need meds for pain management. We are over perscribing all types of meds leeding to death and addiction. In my home town it was Oxy’s that burned threw our retired miner community and then threw there children as theft of there parents meds led to tighter restrictions on all meds but only after years. It burned through my family effecting neices and brothers. Percription Opoids killed a family friends 2 brothers in the same day from heart attacks induced by med abuse.The shock and outrage at the use of the words for First Nations specifically does need to be addressed.The limiting of the pills is the issue and listen to the community. Has pills burned through that community ia it an on going problem etc. In my opinion when weed becomes legal you will see the sale of perscription drugs drop.

  3. A close-up photograph of a note taped to a piece of wood is not evidence or racism. After looking at this doctors website and other doctor ratings websites, I believe this doctor is a victim of targeted trolling for not prescribing drugs to an addict.

  4. To all First Nations people,
    I truly apologize for this blatant display of discrimination by this ignorant physician. I come from a health care background myself, I was an RN for 15 years until I had to retire early due to disability. I have been treated like a piece of garbage by the very system that I worked so hard and proudly for. Chronic Pain patients like myself live in fear that we will not be able to access the medications we need to allow us to have some level of functioning, some resemblance of a life.
    New prescribing guidelines in my province of Alberta officially came in to effect April 1, 2017 but physicians were already implementing the changes.
    The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta monitors the prescribing of physicians. It is true that if the college deems them not following guidelines they send letters to the physicians.
    I’m not suprised to hear the lack of a meaningful response by the College. I wouldn’t expect the physician to face any disciplinary action as this would be decided by the College itself. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of the province, in this case New Brunswick, is responsible for drafting and implementing prescribing guidelines. It makes me question whether the College was already aware and possibly endorsed the contents of the posted note.
    By the representative of the College stating that the sign ‘had been written fo several years ago’ only demonstrates how long standing this discrimination and policy had been in place by this physician.
    In an attempt to find a quick solution to the fentanyl crisis, patients who require opioid pain medication are having their doses reduced, discontinued and some physicians refuse to prescribe any opioids at all in their practice.
    There is no quick solution. We need real solutions to address poverty, homelessness, increase the number of addiction treatment beds and greatly increase access to timely mental health services. Until then, I fear it will only get worse.

    I hope the public outcry and press attention will hold this physician accountable. But when the disciplinary body treats it as a non issue, I’m not holding my breath.

    Kristine B

  5. There should be a war. Against our country for our rights as being native people and take our rights back. Racist is not going to stop and no matter what we do on our land, we will never get excepted because we are like ghost living in the mist like fog in the eyes. Of non native people. We own the land and people threw us on a reservation to make it look worse. For us . we have to take a stand. And keep our family’s safe .

  6. Addictions happen to people in all across the races and to single out one race is irresponsible! Very sad indeed.

  7. Maybe the Doctor didn’t know anything about the sign, maybe his clerk/secetary
    put up the sign without his knowledge….could be. Anyways, I would sure change doctors after seeing that racism, and does he only welcome the addicted white folks there ? I surely would report his office to the College of Physician & Surgeons.

    1. I don’t believe the sign exists. What we see here is a close-up photo of a handwritten note taped to a piece of wood that may be a table, or door, or a cutting board for all we know. I think this anti-addiction doctor is a victim of targeting trolling as a result of refusing to prescribe drugs to addicts.

  8. And it looks as though the Dr. has his mind made up on diagnosis and treatment plan of Natives before he even sees them. I wonder if the non-natives will also not need tranquilizers or pain meds? They must be harder to diagnose, since that’s probably determined during appointment, instead of by a sign in reception.

  9. so basically a native man or woman with cancer comes in, they will not get pain treatment.. a native man woman or child that comes in with a broken bone.. they get nothing for pain.. I native patient of either sex, elder whatever, falls breaks their hip and needs pain medication to keep them comfortable.. nothing.. this is one of the most racists things I’ve seen as of late, oh I see them I read them I get disgusted. I complain to the college. why does this doctor seem to believe that Native people are the only ones that come into his office to ask for sleeping pills and pain medication.. he should just put up a sign that says no pain meds or sleeping pills given here. but no, he must make himself publically known as a racist. how sad.

  10. What lovely, understanding people. How many of them are hooked on prescription drugs and how can we get them off? Or are they more concerned about their pride?

  11. “Dr. Shawn Burke, a representative for the College, spoke briefly on the phone with APTN but called the sign a “non-story.”
    Burke said it was his understanding the sign at Dr. Carter’s office had been written several years ago.”

    Dr. Burke just said that this is a non-story because they have been racist for years. Yep, we know that Dr. Burke, more accurately near a thousand years. Any chance we are going to see some of that cultural evolution your layabout class has been writing about for the past two hundred years?

  12. OMG how shocking! Words defy me and I am filled with outrage. To all FN people, my apologies for this poor excuse of a sub-human ass.

  13. I feel that the doctor handled this poorly. His sign says not to “ask” for these prescription​s. Usually a doctor will decide what is best for a patient and treat them accordingly with the proper procedure or medication. This doctor may have been frustrated that he was specifically asked for these prescriptions rather than his opinion. I doubt he was refusing to prescribe those medications exclusively to first Nations people who needed them because he has a hatred for native americans. He did make a generalization by specifically addressing first Nations people in his sign. I agree that is wrong. The sign is a racial issue by tacking that idea of being asked for specific prescription​ drugs is only occuring with first Nations patients.

  14. That doctor is not fit to practice and should lose their license. Addiction runs rampant in Miramichi and knows no boundaries. The way I see it is that its the fault of the doctors prescribing it. Looks to me like doctors these days especially in the Miramichi have become the dealers! Hello!

    1. Fire the doctor who is tired of people asking for the drugs because clearly he isn’t going to give them what they want, but it’s the doctors fault because they’re the drug dealers?

      You can’t have it both ways. He’s either trying to help the problem by saying “I’m not supplying you with these things” or he’s part of the problem by being the dealer.

    1. No need of such racist signs written directly to our people. Hope this issue will not be dropped but drop the doctor or reprimand him someway.

  15. We need to do our part also to stop racial slurring ..in this case … we need to learn about and go back to medicinal/ herbal traditional medicines as our ancestors did …
    Mother Earth has left all cures to all illnesses for us to use ..and they can no longer harm our people by feeding us their poisons …

  16. Lmao… Wtf was wrong with these European doctors in new Brunswick nowadays?

    I’m So bloody appalled by this racial discrimination crap.

  17. Any physician who would post a note like this should NOT be practicing. Never mind his needing to be sensitive to cultural issues — that is being too easy on him. He sounds like a miserable, arrogant and careless practitioner who I wouldn’t trust with the sniffles. Horrible note, horrible person who would write this garbage.

    1. Aside from his blatant public demonstration of racism, I would query the intelligence, and capabilities, of a physician who would declare it to the world at large.
      From what medical school did he graduate?

  18. I am thinking that maybe that – they as writing this note, are trying to help control the problem of people “ASKING” for as opposed to “NEEDING” the “meds” that they either do not require them or just want to sell them ….best of intentions…but some people got caught up on the word “native, black, etc.” where they should have just posted a note saying if “anyone comes in ASKING” for those specific drugs…should not get them…they should only be prescribed…not ASKED for…just my thoughts…could be anyone who asked, just that it is a problem for certain races, so they happened to write “native” could have been white, black, orange, purple or yellow….unfortunately they wrote native – – because that may have been a problem area in their neck of the woods….come on think about it….we are trying to stop this sort of thing around the world of inappropriate behavior, but we all know it happens everywhere…so cudos to those who try and stop the ASKING of prescription drugs…and only people who need certain drugs should get them and be monitored as to the amount they get…Just me <3 love everyone

    1. Native was singled out… it’s intentional racism… It’s painting Natives all with one brush… there are many reasons this is wrong… Replacing the sign with one that says “please don’t ask for tranquilizers or pain medications” not racist and message is still the same except no one is singled out…

  19. It’s especially disturbing that a representative from the College of Physicians and Surgeons dismissed the complaint without investigating. This alone is worth a serious inquiry.

    1. EXACTLY! Dr. Shawn Burke behaved irresponsibly and not up to the standards of his profession. Embarrassing that he dismisses the complaint out of hand. He must be a white cisgender man over 55.

    2. I agree with you, to me there are two major problems, the Dr’s. Office for writing the note and the racist attitude of the College and Physicians representative who seems to think it is ok that this has been in this Dr’s. Office for years! Does he not think that it is a problem unless it was just recently put there? Actually if it was there for years it is even worse that they knew this and allowed it to continue and facilitated the racism to continue and a third major probklem now that i think about it… The people of Miramichi who are not Native and have not done or said anything about this being posted for years there! How is this so normal a way of thinking in that region that this could not even be looked at with the slightest bit of concern by the community at large, the College of Physicians and the Dr’s office themselves? Absolutely disgustingly amazed and offended to see this be considered acceptable by all these people…..

  20. Well, it is the White, dominant society doctors who write the drug prescriptions and should accept what they do. I do not believe that White fear us for prescription writing for very Indigenous doctors out there. They most probably would not patronize us anyway.

  21. Wow. How rude ,a professional office where they are supposed to help everyone not pick and choose who they help. There are so many people on drugs and they decide to disrespect the natives and single them out.
    This really pisses me off to say the least.
    Glad I don’t live in that province anymore.

  22. It’s sad to see Canada becoming just as racist at America. I thought things were getting better, but then this appears out of nowhere.

    1. Barnaby – Racism cannot be regionalized. I’m from Georgia and lived here and New England. I’ve seen good and bad in both regions. There’s always going to be good and bad people. And as far as the drug epidemic. That’s everywhere it seems. I’ve lost friends here in Georgia and New England lose their lives to this sadly.

    2. I agree it is sad to see. I am a Native American from the western provinces of Canada and I moved to the southern United States to get away from the racism and start a new life. I can tell you that on the almost 5 years of living in the southern U.S that Americans are not racist towards Native Americans. They are celebrated here as heroes who saved the colonials from starvation. I will say that in the upper northern states yes they are racist but not down here. Ive never been looked down upon in any way since Ive been here. I also find it troubling that Canada has publicly spoken out against Islam and even enacted a law against it but yet Native Americans continue to face racism everyday. It is unacceptable. The Canadian government is hugely responsible for the prejucidial attitudes that is pervasive in todays society. Native people were stripped of their culture and were treated like dogs. Now because of that and the residential system they wonder why Native Americans have so many problems. It is due to their dehumanizing treatment of them. They are now subject to victim blaming in that most believe they are the cause of their own situation. They are not the cause! It is time to Native Americans to show pride in themselves…stand up..and say this CANNOT continue any longer!!

  23. It’s taken years for anyone to welcome first nations in our own country after the colonization. 150 years later after the Europeans brought in alcohol and immigrants brought in drugs they see it as a problem with indigenous people. You would think by now they would respect the culture and people after we’ve fought to keep it alive for thousands of years. Our home and native land, there is no getting rid of us so as we welcomed all immigrants please respect the land you choose to reside on you are no better. As my mom always said walk with love you never know what anyone goes through. Our world could be better if everyone thought this way.

    1. ummmm “welcome first nations in our own country” ……that does not make sense…even after colonization, they were here first, that is why the are called first nations…what is – “our own country” mean????

  24. Omg! Are you serious! Racists! There is no excuse for racism. Unacceptable New Brunswick! Unacceptable Unacceptable Canada! I know it is not most of you, but we as non-racist individuals have to rise against this kind of behavior. It needs to end! It gives us all a negative persona, especially when we don’t stand up against it!
    Besides that, Mi’kmaq people and Maritimers are two of the kindest, most accepting, and most generous groups of people I’ve ever had the pleasure of spending time with.

    1. You are so right it has to stop. I am a visitor out there although I’ve never been in a racist situation, nor do I want to be, but it is disheartening to view stuff like this I have grandchildren and a son in law who is migmaw and my daughter is Ojibwa and many friends who I consider very very friendly and have complaints about them. So I suggest that SOME PEOPLE JUST NEED TO GET OVER IT. You never know what the future holds.

    2. Because of this racist comment. All First Nation clients should have their files removed from that clinic. They can easily find another clinic that will be more supportive. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada should no longer pay a penny toward anything to do with that specific location.

      1. It can take up to two years (or longer) in this area to find a new family doctors, so some people may choose to stay

    3. This is so racist and untrue.
      Its not like there has ever been a history of drug or alcohol abuse on indian reservations or anything.
      I think that good nonjudgemental people should meet at that doctors office with torches and burn it to the ground to show their solidarity with the native population.

    4. As a white appearing person I am sad to opine that it is likely far past 50%. Harder to spot the bigots now because many don’t have the courage to openly display it; but, like a ravenous disease it lives and propagates.

    5. Here in Manitoba, doctors and pharmacists are making a killing prescribing pain killers or tranquilizers to Income Assistance, this is not about race, it’s mainly Income Assistance how easy they can get these pills, sure they can make up imaginary pains and I have heard this, I have seen this at these homeless shelter how they wait for their prescription and go sell them. Even for myself I was asking for something for menopause at Four Rivers Walk in Clinic, this doctor gave a me a prescription for Zanex, or whatever heck the pills were, he says it will settle my mind, I gave it back, no thanks, I don’t want this medication, never went back. I’m serious, these walk in clinics are popping up almost every corner, making a killing knowing Income Assistance gets free medical, doctors and pharmacists don’t care, as long it’s business. Then my own pharmacist will give me my puffers more than I need, they will keep asking if I need, I tell them it’s ok, it’s all about money. Sure this note is racist but this doctor or whoever wrote this note should had written in a different way. I have seen these notes at doctor’s offices that say they don’t prescribe any narcotics to “walk in patients” where they know there’s abuse on pain medication or tranquilizers. This is the fact, it’s much easier for any Income Assistance to get any medicine.

      1. You’re completely missing the point. The doctor didn’t post a note telling Income Assistance clients not to ask for pain meds, he directly targeted First Nations people. That’s blatantly racist. And furthermore, your attempt to equate all First Nations people as welfare recipients is also a racist assumption to make. Stop trying to normalize racism and white supremacy please. Doing so just makes you part of the problem.

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