Toronto's health-care system is on its way to being reworked to ensure that what happened to Joyce Echaquan won't happen here. 

Narcity spoke to the Strategic Lead in Indigenous Health at Temerty Medicine (University of Toronto), Dr. Lisa Richardson, to learn about future initiatives that will be implemented to keep Indigenous and Black patients safe in Toronto hospitals. 

Richardson, who is of mixed Anishinaabe descent, shared some of the practices that those in healthcare can expect to be using in the future, and how institutions will be held accountable. 

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What was your reaction after learning of the death of Joyce Echaquan?

National outrage was sparked at the mistreatment of Joyce Echaquan, a 37-year-old Atikamekw mother of seven, who filmed her last moments in a hospital in Joliette, Quebec, while pleading with the nurses for help as they taunted her. 

"My reaction was one of deep sadness and frustration at the ongoing racism within our health-care system. Sadness for her family, sadness for her seven children, and sadness for her community," Richardson stated. 

"There's a teaching: when one of us is hurt we all hurt. It's sadness for Indigenous Peoples across Turtle Island."

When asked if this type of situation could happen in Toronto, Richardson replied that it could happen anywhere. 

"This is a problem that happens throughout the healthcare system from coast to coast to coast."

What are some methods being proposed to dismantle systemic racism in Toronto's health-care system?

Safe ways for patients to report mistreatment while in the hospital are now being conceptualized so that incidents can be investigated. 

"The first initiative or the one that sort of bubbled up as a priority is a way to safely disclose and report experiences of racism for Black and Indigenous people in our healthcare system so that they can bring forward their complaints," said Richardson. 

The system is meant to be action and results-oriented, and will not stop at data collection, Richardson added. 

"The recommendations are not recommendations, they're actually actions. So when I'm talking about they will be underway I'm talking about they will be implemented. We don't do recommendations anymore. This is not a data collection activity this is an action-oriented group."

Richardson also said that while education on cultural safety and anti-racist practice is crucial, it can only be effective when that knowledge is applied in the real world.

That is, training individuals who are able to immediately notice racist practices and call them out. 

"Individual behaviour and education of individuals is critical but the point of that education is to allow individuals to actually recognize and see those moments of racism and interrupt them."

"Every health-care practitioner needs to have had cultural safety and anti-racist practice education."

How can health-care institutions be held accountable?

Reporting on and dealing with individual instances is the first step in uncovering a larger spectrum of racist practices in health care, Richardson said. 

"If we see that there are quite a few concerns coming from a particular institution whether it be a particular hospital for example, we can link back," she reasoned.

If there are repeated issues, health care institutions will have to answer questions such as: "How are you recruiting people? Who do you have as Indigenous peoples in your governance? Who are your Indigenous leaders in your organizations? How have you rolled out cultural safety education?"

"Having a meaningful way to gather those reports and then report back is important both for the patients and the clients but also to hold institutions accountable."

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