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

(NEWS FILE PHOTO)
ACRD, City of Port Alberni receive $4 million for COVID-19

Municipalities have until end of 2021 to allocate funding

The site of the former Arrowview Hotel, on Second Avenue and Athol Street, as of Jan. 14, 2020. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Port Alberni pressures Arrowview Hotel owner for final cleanup

Demolition finished in June 2020 but site still full of construction material

West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni received some good news about an expansion to its emergency department on Jan. 15, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
B.C. health ministry commits $6.25M to hospital expansion in Port Alberni

Plans for larger emergency department have been on hold since 2015

A Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation guardian took this photo of dozens of vehicles parked along a forest service road in the Kennedy watershed. (Submitted photo)
Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District looks at enforcement of illegal camping

ACRD currently does not have an existing bylaw service to tackle the issue

Randy Brown, owner of Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue, has five trailers and a motorhome at the back of his property that he is renting to people who had been previously homeless. He wants to put 15 trailers on his property, hooked up to city sewer and water and BC Hydro. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Building owner digs in heels, refuses to remove illegal trailers from property

Port Alberni council gives owner two-week reprieve on remediation orders

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

Everett Bumstead (centre) and his crew share a picture from a tree planting location in Sayward on Vancouver Island from when they were filming for ‘One Million Trees’ last year. Photo courtesy, Everett Bumstead.
The tree-planting life on Vancouver Island featured in new documentary

Everett Bumstead brings forth the technicalities, psychology and politics of the tree planting industry in his movie

Most Read