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

Ladysmith hosts Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations at Transfer Beach

Community comes together to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day

Ladysmith man arrested for armed robbery and jewelry theft

Dustin Williams charged for robbery of beer and wine store and theft at jewelry store in Nanaimo

John Marston’s nutsamuut syaays welcome figure unveiled at LSS

The unveiling lasted for only a few hours, but it celebrated several years of work

Ladysmith couple prepares for 2019 Cycle of Life Tour

Brian and Karen Hartley will be riding to raise money for hospice care across Vancouver Island

Driver of stolen vehicle caught after fleeing accident scene in Chemainus

Section of Chemainus Road closed until suspect located and eventually taken into custody

Protesters rally in Victoria over newly approved Trans Mountain pipeline

The Still No Consent! No Trans Mountain! 20 kilometre march will end at Island View Beach

Wildfire burning in coastal forest

A fire beside the Sea to Sky Highway is burning up a steep slope

PHOTOS: Event marks one year since soccer team rescued from Thai cave

Nine players and coach took part in marathon and bike event to help improve conditions at cave

Rock climber dies after fall at Stawamus Chief in Squamish

The man had fallen about 30 metres while climbing in the Grand Wall area

Five B.C. students taken to hospital after playing with vaping device

School district said students were taken to hospital ‘out of an abundance of caution’

Being a pot dealer is not what it used to be

Sunday Big Read: the business of selling marijuana in B.C. is a slow bureaucratic slog

VIDEO: Two more pride flags have been stolen from Langley woman

Lisa Ebenal was “angry” and “fed up” after the latest theft. Then people started showing suppport

B.C. couple who has raised 58 children turns to community amid cancer diagnosis

Family who raised, fostered and adopted many kids hoping to gain some precious together time to fight cancer

Canucks acquire forward J.T. Miller from Lightning

J.T. Miller, 26, had 13 goals and 34 assists for the Lightning last season

Most Read