The Saanich Peninsula Hospital. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)

The Saanich Peninsula Hospital. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)

MLA ‘devastated’ by claims of racist blood-alcohol game at Greater Victoria hospital

Adam Olsen says racism in B.C. health care system is pervasive

“Devastating, troubling and abhorrent” are words a Greater Victoria politician used to describe allegations levelled against the Saanich Peninsula Hospital that staff participated in racist acts currently under investigation by the province.

Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, interim leader of the B.C. Green Party and member of Tsartlip First Nation, issued a statement Wednesday saying he is well aware of pervasive racism in B.C.’s health care system but hearing of such blatant discrimination was “devastating.”

Olsen’s statement comes in response to Friday’s announcement that the Ministry of Health is investigating allegations of emergency room doctors and nurses playing a “game” where they guess the blood alcohol level of Indigenous patients and possibly others.

“It is devastating to hear about such blatant acts of racism, not just because the incidents themselves are abhorrent, but because it speaks to a work environment in which they were not only tolerated, but trivialized,” Olsen said. “Let’s be clear: nothing about this is a ‘game’ and I am deeply saddened to hear it referred to as such.”

READ ALSO: B.C. launches investigation into allegations of racist blood-alcohol guessing game in ER

Black Press Media has learned that the “game” played by hospital staff was akin to the TV show Price is Right. B.C. Minister of Health Adrian Dix announced Friday that Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has been appointed by the province to look into the allegations.

Speaking with Black Press Media, Olsen said there needs to be immediate action so that members of Indigenous communities will feel safe accessing health care.

“What I would like to hear is, what are the plans to address the immediate need to ensure there is competence in that healthcare facility?” he said. “Nothing about it this is a ‘game.’ This is the health and well-being of people.”

Ron Rice, executive director of the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, said racism is the reason many Indigenous people avoid seeking health care at all.

“The reality is even if you are getting into these situations where they are playing this game around you, that’s a step up from a lot of people who wouldn’t go to the hospital in emergency situations, because they don’t think they will be treated with any care or concern.”

Rice said racism in the health care system is not isolated to the allegations facing the Saanich Peninsula Hospital.

“It’s good these things are being said, but what’s being done about it?” he asked. “We need to be putting pressure on the province, on the health authority, on the unions – the unions that represent these individuals should be holding these individuals to a certain standard.

“The whole system needs to weigh heavy on this, it’s not something we can sweep under a rug at this point.”

In a statement, Island Health said it fully supports the provincial investigation but did not confirm which hospital was involved in the allegations.

“Island Health’s CEO has been clear with all staff and medical staff, stating if this behavior is occurring – whether in an emergency department or any other service area – it must stop immediately,” the health authority said. “As an investigation is underway into these allegations, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

In March the Saanich Peninsula Hospital unveiled a new sign printed with an Indigenous name – LAU,WELNEW,AUTW – which translates to ‘place of healing.’ The sign was chosen by the WSANEC people and approved by chiefs from the four local First Nations.

READ ALSO: Healthcare racism probe must go to systemic roots, not just ‘bad apples’: Indigenous doctor

With files from Ashley Wadhwani.


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
nina.grossman@blackpress.ca Follow us on Instagram.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

IndigenousracismVancouver Island Health Authority

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

FILE – Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have agreed to sign a memorandum on rights and title with B.C. and Ottawa, but elected chiefs are demanding it be called off over lack of consultation. (Thom Barker photo)
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Lake Babine Nation get provincial funding for land, title rights

Government says it’s a new, flexible model for future agreements between Canada, B.C. and First Nations.

Kieran Christison, manager of Daybreak Farms in Terrace inspects eggs on Oct. 30, 2020. Christison wants to transition to a zero waste, cage-free facility. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Daybreak Farms aiming to achieve zero-waste, cage-free facility

Kieran Christison, manager, presented the farm’s future plans to Terrace city council

Mercedes Trigo, assistant manager, said that Trigo’s Lifestyle Store in Terrace has experienced four broken windows and an attempted break-in recently, leaving her feeling unsupported by bystanders and the police. (Ben Bogstie/Terrace Standard)
Trigo’s management frustrated by property damage, theft

In a little over a month there have been four broken windows and an attempted break-in at the store

Two RCMP officers have been recognized for their actions in responding to an incident involving a man with a weapon at 4501 Park Ave. on the afternoon of April 27, 2020. RCMP say it was an isolated incident and there is no danger to the general public. (Jake Wray photo)
Terrace RCMP officers recognized for acts of bravery

Two involved in arrest of armed suspect

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Most Read