Sunday, January 05, 2014

Disabled, poor and Aboriginal shouldn't be a lethal combination 

An inquest examining the death of a man during a 34-hour wait in a Winnipeg hospital emergency room has seen video of Brian Sinclair's final hours languishing in a waiting room.
I hadn't realized before this that Brian Sinclair was Aboriginal, as well as being disabled and poor.
It was a lethal combination --  Sinclair sat in his wheelchair in a hospital emergency waiting room for 34 hours dying due to a blocked catheter.
It happened in Winnipeg, but it could have happened in any prairie province.
The Globe and Mail article provides us with an update on the inquest into his death. And even in this article, his race is minimized, mentioned only at the end.
In prior articles, which described how other patients tried to get help for him, his race isn't mentioned at all.
Even the most recent Globe article begins with the usual complaints about emergency wait times and short staffing, as though this accounted for the neglect that Sinclair endured.  It is only at the end of that article that we find out that Sinclair was not just disabled and poor, but also Aboriginal.
It was a death sentence:
Marcel Balfour, acting executive director with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said it would be a missed opportunity if the inquest were not to address the role Mr. Sinclair’s race, social status and disability played in his treatment. Although Sinclair’s case is extreme, Balfour said the organization has heard similar complaints from other aboriginal people seeking medical care.
“That intersection of race, poverty and disability, I think, really needs to be examined,” he said.
Emily Hill, lawyer for Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto, which has standing at the inquest, said numerous hospital employees have testified they worked 12-hour shifts in the emergency room but didn’t see Sinclair. She said the inquest needs to delve into why the double amputee, who was partially blocking an aisle in the emergency room, was so invisible.
The answer may lie in the negative stereotypes of aboriginal people that are “deeply rooted in Canadian society,” she said.
“As a result, there is discrimination,” Mr. Hill said.“What aboriginal people experience in the health-care system, in the justice system, in the education system — in all kinds of places where Canadian society is reflected — is that extension of systemic racism.”
Yes, exactly.
We minimize, neglect, ignore and assume the worst about Aboriginal people all the time.
"I'm not racist" is the phrase you hear all of us saying across the Prairies all the time.  But all that means is we don't wear pointy hoods and burn crosses.
In reality, we don't understand what racism actually is, we don't realize how racist we ourselves actually are, and we certainly don't acknowledge how pervasive it is across our part of the world.
I remember this great clip from the great movie, Smoke Signals, where Thomas describes how his dad was found guilty of "being an Indian in the 20th Century".  That's all it takes:

Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers | 5 comments


I am old enough to remember when there was noting controversial about race jokes, stereotypes and discrimination. I am not sure just exactly when I made the transition, but it was when I was a teenager. I guess when I became best friends with the only black kid in my high school. I have just kind of assumed being an adult in Toronto that racism mostly gone, and was the domain of trailer park types, and truck drivers. It was a shock to me, at a meeting with senior executives of a publicly traded Calgary firm, when they started bandying race and sex based jokes in a lull in our business meeting. I had to bite my tongue, and my dismay became obvious, as a young female native secretary sat in the corner taking notes, and growing redder and redder by the minute. I think they were all embarrassed when they realised the room was not full of good ole boys. Is that the beginning of the end of racism? I hope so, but I am afraid that I have to concurr that for the moment racism is alive and well on the Prairies. The good news is that some people do feel shame about their views when it is staring them in the face like that.

By Anonymous bluegreenblogger, at 3:46 pm  

Thanks for your comment and for your story. At least there was an Aboriginal person in the room -- usually, there is not when this kind of thing happens.

By Blogger CathiefromCanada, at 7:44 am  

Excellent post and good points. But the Globe and Mail article mentions that he was aboriginal at the very beginning, second sentence, and mentions it again several times. And it specifically mentions the "intersection of race, poverty and disability".

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:05 pm  

Yes, you're right, I missed it.

By Blogger CathiefromCanada, at 12:11 am  

as soon as the news broke a man had died while waiting for medical care in a Winnipeg hospital, I knew he would be First Nations or Metis. They are the invisible people in Canada or if they are seen they are ignored.

Its not surprising the executives made inappropriate jokes with a First Nations woman in the room. They don't consider her important enough to monitor their own comments. Its just business as usual in Canada. No one even called those guys on what they were saying.,

By Blogger e.a.f., at 12:44 am  

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