Siksika Nation collecting ‘complaints’ about Alberta’s health system

Siksika Nation leadership says it is starting to collect stories of discriminatory treatment its members have faced within the Alberta health care system, and working with a local law firm to bring those stories to light.

“A steady flow of complaints have been made to chief and council in this area and leadership is working with a team of lawyers on this matter,” Ouray Crowfoot, chief of Siksika said.

Crowfoot said the number of complaints have been rising with the pandemic and wants to ensure a safe space for Siksika members, or any Indigenous person in the area to come forward.

“We are constantly being reminded of racism and heartbreak in stories,” he said, referring to Joyce Echaquan, who live streamed mistreatment she received from Montreal healthcare workers moments before her death in 2020.

“Her story is not an isolated incident,” Crowfoot added. “Far too long we’ve been subject to racist and discriminatory behavior while receiving health care. For too long we’ve been insulted when we were at our most vulnerable.”

On Dec. 26, 2020, Lillian Vanasse, an Ojibway woman living in Hanna, Alta., died while in hospital with flu-like symptoms. Her husband Corey Ashley questions her treatment and is still fighting for answers in her death

In January 2022, a University of Alberta study revealed emergency rooms across the province are treating Indigenous patients less urgently than those who are non-Indigenous

Siksika councilor Samuel Crowfoot said many members choose to avoid local health care facilities because of racist treatment.

“The complaint process in general in Alberta for any type of medical or racist event is extremely hard to follow and is governed not in the most efficient way,” he said. “Thereby I think it reduces the amount of complaints that come in.”

Tyler White, CEO of Siksika Health Services told reporters ultimately the stories will be brought to all levels of government.

“I’m disappointed that we have to take these types of measures to get the attention of our government, both federal and provincial,” White said. “These aren’t stories these are real experiences that our people have experienced.”

The complaints will be collected over an unknown period. Once ready, the Nation will work with JFK Law Corporation to decide the next steps.

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