Addressing Indigenous-Specific Racism in Healthcare as Part of Reconciliation: A Nurses Responsibility to Mitigate Racism in Healthcare


  • Mary-Jane Ducsharm
  • Holly Graham
  • Arlene Kent-Wilkinson


Background: Reports of racism and discrimination, particularly Indigenous-specific racism within the Canadian health care system, has become common in the news. The November 2020 report entitled In Plain Sight: Addressing Indigenous-specific Racism and Discrimination in B. C. Health Care and the September 2020 death of Joyce Echaquan clearly indicate immediate action is required by all nurses to address current practice and to be accountable for delivering safe, competent, and ethical care to Indigenous peoples (First Nations, Métis, and Inuit). As a registered nurse and a white settler mother of two Indigenous sons, I cannot ignore Indigenous-specific racism. In alignment with the Truth and Reconciliation recommendations, I recognize the necessity to address the truth - the history of colonization in Canada and how it has affected and continues to affect Indigenous health and wellness. There are numerous publications that have described the legacy of both residential schools and the Indian hospitals, along with numerous anecdotal stories of the deplorable care provided to the First Peoples of Canada. This historical relationship has resulted in Indigenous peoples feeling deep mistrust towards the healthcare system. This sociopolitical history directly affects my Indigenous sons and their personal wellness as they navigate growing up in an environment of racism. Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to share with healthcare professionals the effects Indigenous-specific racism has on Canadian Indigenous people with the hope of fostering more authentic conversations to guide policy change and create an environment for safe, competent, compassionate, and ethical healthcare delivery. Implications: It is necessary for all health care providers to engage in safe, compassionate, competent, and ethical care for all patients. Practicing cultural safety an important first step when engaging with Indigenous peoples. This colonial history impacts my sons’ wellness and I have prepared a letter to share with them and my nursing colleagues. My hope is twofold: 1) that they will keep this letter and read it as they face unnecessary challenges simply because they are Indigenous; and secondly, the nursing profession will address and eliminate Indigenous-specific racism in healthcare.