National News

Inquest told aboriginals face racism in ERs

By The Canadian Press

WINNIPEG - One of Canada's top aboriginal health experts says native people face racism and discrimination in the country's emergency departments.

Janet Smylie told an inquest into the death of an aboriginal man during a 34-hour wait at a Winnipeg ER that health care was not set up with native people in mind.

Smylie, a Metis physician at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, said surveys have shown aboriginals expect unequal treatment when they go to an emergency room.

She said studies have found aboriginal people are less likely to get some life-saving treatment.

Smylie says many face overt racism while others suffer from less explicit bias and stereotyping.

Brian Sinclair died of a treatable bladder infection in 2008 while waiting to be examined at Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre.

The double-amputee had been dead for hours by the time he was discovered and rigor mortis had set in.

Although many hospital staff testified they saw Sinclair, no one thought he was waiting for care. Some testified they thought the aboriginal man was drunk and was waiting for a ride or just needed a warm place to rest.

Smylie suggested Canada's health care is a loose extension of colonialism because it is founded on a belief that one set of people are superior to another.

"Our health-care services were set up with the best intentions in mind," Smylie testified Tuesday. "They weren't set up with indigenous people in mind."

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