Racism: A Health Crisis

Dear College of Medicine community,

I hope that you are hanging in there at the end of this harsh Winter.

On January 23rd, a woman named Kimberly Squirrell froze to death on the streets of Saskatoon, only 3 days after being released from the Pine Grove correctional centre. Added to the grief of losing a loved and valuable member of our community, I have been outraged reading comments that continue to blame Indigenous women for the violence they suffer. Comments that continue to attribute poverty and marginalization to lack of “work ethic” or the “right morals”. Comments that judge Indigenous women for their “bad choices” by people who have never encountered discrimination, barriers, harmful stereotypes. Racism determines not only the quality of life and health for Indigenous people in our province, but also the quality of care that one will receive. Racism will determine if you are perceived as a citizen deserving of rights, protection, and care, or someone who is disposable. The death of Kimberly Squirrell is unacceptable and outrageous because it was preventable. Because it shows how little our systems value the lives of Indigenous women. Racism is a health crisis, and it is no longer acceptable.

The DSA is one of the actors trying to push for transformation and real change in the College of Medicine, but not the only ones. I want to honor and acknowledge the efforts of our Black, Indigenous and people of color faculty, staff and students who everyday overcome the racism of the University to be leaders, advocates, and mentors. If you are striving to be an ally too, we invite you to engage with the many anti-racism initiatives happening across the CoM including our upcoming webinar in the Health and Equity Series: Making Systems Accountable “Patterns of White Dominance in Health Care” by Sharissa Hankte (RN).

Health and Racism News:

Social SharingFederal, provincial officials discuss ways to counter anti-Indigenous racism in health care

Federal, provincial officials discuss ways to counter anti-Indigenous racism in health care

Sask.’s decision to end widely criticized practice of birth alerts doesn’t go far enough: experts

Indigenous People lack access to health care because of systemic racism report says

Workers tasked with tackling anti-Indigenous racism say they faced scapegoating and ‘backlash’ at Island Health

Haisla family sues doctors, hospitals, health authority in B.C.

Tackle lack of basic health care for Indigenous peoples, then worry about racism, Nunavut’s MP says

Opinion pieces:

Canadian complacency is the killer of collective change

Racism in province continues to show through inaction

When will we all start giving a damn about Indigenous lives?

Sen. Murray Sinclair urges Canadians to reckon with systemic racism

Warm regards,

Manuela Valle-Castro, PhD (she/her, they/them)
Director, Division of Social Accountability
College of Medicine
University of Saskatchewan

I acknowledge that I live and work on Treaty 6, the traditional territories of the Nêhiyawak, Nahkawe, Dakota, Lakota, Dene and Homeland of the Metis peoples.