Systemic Racism in Health Care: A Response from Haida Gwaii Physicians

On this National Indigenous Peoples Day, we are dismayed by the recent report from Health Minister Adrian Dix describing a serious example of systemic racism in our healthcare system. As your doctors, we feel angry and also ashamed that such damaging attitudes and behaviours exist in our profession, despite our spoken commitments to provide care with compassion and respect.
Trust takes decades of diligent care to build, and may vanish in an instant with a thoughtless word or gesture. Without trust, there is no healing connection. Blatant acts of racism such those reported by Minister Dix damage this trust. We fear that these practices may widen the care gap as people justifiably lose faith in their healthcare providers, and avoid or delay accessing the services they need.
While we feel disheartened, we as physicians must also see this as an opportunity for humility and growth. It is another chance for those of us who have been sheltered from racism to realize the magnitude of the problem and shock us into action. 
It can be easy to distance ourselves from blatant acts of racism, to dismiss them as exceptions. It is more difficult to acknowledge how we, as health care providers, personally contribute to the persistence of systemic racism through ignorance or inaction. We do so by not taking the time to learn the history that has led to the current injustices. We do so by not uncovering the root causes of suffering and addiction. We do so by remaining silent, by ignoring our privilege to use the means we have (our voice, our influence, our strength) to address racism and injustice.
May this most recent example of systemic racism awaken and deepen our sense of shared humanity so we can embrace the words of American political activist and philosopher Angela Davis: “I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I’m changing the things I cannot accept.”

With gratitude for the privilege to serve our communities, and with the knowledge that this privilege must be earned again every day,

The Physicians of Haida Gwaii

  • Jocelyn Black
  • James Chrones
  • Michel Daoust-Wheatley
  • Gordon Horner
  • Jordan Koopmans
  • Michele Leslie
  • Tasha Maheu
  • Tracy Morton
  • Tamara Pacholuk
  • Caroline Shooner
  • Skylar Van Osch
  • Caroline Walker
  • Catherine Wong

If you or your loved one has experienced discrimination when accessing care, please contact the NH Patient Care Quality Office

If you want to educate yourself about how to provide care in a culturally safe manner, please visit

COPING with COVID-19: Mental Health Resources on Haida Gwaii

Coping during the pandemic can be difficult. Most of us will experience anxiety as we worry for ourselves or our loved ones, and wonder what kind of future lies ahead.

Please know that you are not alone!

Here are some resources to help you stay well during these stressful times:

24 HOUR CRISIS LINE: 1-888-562-1214 

NORTH END Resources

Haida Health Centre’s Mental Wellness: 250-626-7884

Northern Health’s Adult Mental Health: 250-626-4725

Haida Gwaii Society for Peace – for those experiencing or at risk of domestic violence:  250-626-4666 (24hr) 

Island Wide Haida Child & Family Services for children, youth & adults of Haida ancestry: 250-280-7896 

SOUTH END Resources

Skidegate Health Centre- online at or 778-361-0179

Northern Health’s Haida Gwaii Health Centre: 250-559-4933

Island Wellness Society for those impacted by trauma or violence  – Child & youth counselling: 250-559-4767

Women’s Counseling:  250-559-8828 

ONLINE Resources

Coping with COVID-19