Mi’kmaw nurse calls for inquiry, talks racism in health care

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A Mi’kmaw nurse is calling on the province to hold an inquiry into systemic racism in New Brunswick.

Cheyenne Joseph joins a growing chorus of Indigenous people living in New Brunswick calling for an inquiry after the deaths of Chantel Moore and Rodney Levi at the hands of police officers.

So far the province has declined to hold an inquiry.

Joseph said an inquiry would turn the belief that systemic racism exists, something that until now is anecdotal, into a concrete reality.

“When the province says ‘no we don’t really want to do an inquiry’ or are hesitating, it’s invalidating what we’re trying to say,” said Joseph. 

“We’re trying to create change, but it really requires the entire province to come on board and say, at least, look into it.”

Joseph said this is not a journey that Indigenous people can make on their own.

“We’re at the point where we need the inquiry to be able to move forward because we’re stuck if we’re just travelling by ourselves,” said Joseph. 

“We need everyone on board and an inquiry is what’s going to get us there.”

Joseph said years of tragedies have made Indigenous people feel like they’re living in communities that are always in a state of crisis.

“Once we sort of feel like we’ve recovered from one tragedy or crisis we’re right back into another one,” said Joseph. 

“These two deaths came on the heels of a very disappointing judgment in the case of the hit and run incident that involved Brady Francis and then a few months later we have these two tragedies.”

Racism in medicine

Joseph said systemic racism can be found outside the justice system, as well.

She sees it in her profession, and it can have painful consequences for Indigenous people.

“There’s a lot of stories that I’ve heard from community members that said as soon as I went to the ER. and I had pain, I felt like they treated me [differently] because I’m Native, therefore I must be drug seeking and all they did was send me home with Tylenol,” said Joseph. 

“So there wasn’t even a full assessment, like what really should be happening with anyone presenting with pain.”

Joseph teaches a twelve week course to nursing students about creating a more accepting health care system for Indigenous patients.

Cheyenne Joseph has 17 years of experience in community health. She also teaches Indigenous wellness in the UNB nursing program. 4:32

She says much of this involves making patients feel comfortable being themselves in medical facilities.

“In the health care system, what I’m trying to do with future nurses is help them understand what culturally safe care looks like,” said Joseph. 

“In a culturally safe environment, anyone would feel free to be themselves and share the information that they need to share with, for example a health care provider, in order to get the care that they need.”



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