Quebec to inject $15 million into health-care training to increase Indigenous cultural security

Quebec announced Friday that it would put $15 million into the health-care network to increase cultural security among First Nations and Inuit communities.

Cultural security refers to health care that is provided with respect for the patient's cultural identity.

The money will go towards training health-care staff on the concept of cultural safety developed in collaboration with Indigenous communities in the province, as well as hiring liaison officers to help Indigenous people navigate the hospital system.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafreniere and Health and Social Services Minister Christian Dube made the announcement in the morning in Montreal.

Lafreniere said it was the first of many upcoming announcements.

"It's an ongoing process, so we're not closed to anything," he said. "One of the important thing is to start a movement, and today we're doing that."

The Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Québec tabled the Viens report a year ago and recommended the government "make the professional orders aware of the importance of including content in their training programs, developed in cooperation with Indigenous authorities, that addresses cultural safeguards and the needs," reads Call to Action 24.

According to the National Collaborating Centre for Indigenous Health, Indigenous people in Canada face much higher rates of diabetes, infant mortality, and various chronic diseases than non-Indigenous people.

The announcement comes after an outpouring of calls for improvements to the health-care system in the wake of the death of Atikamekw woman Joyce Echaquan, who died in hospital after being racially taunted by Joliette Hospital staff.

Grand Chief of the Atikamekw Nation Constant Awashish said he welcomed the funding, but knows there remains much work to be done.

“There is still a lot of work to be done to resolve inequities and systemic racism," said Awashish in a news release. "Building trust between Indigenous people and the health system will not happen overnight. At the very least, this announcement shows a willingness to act government, and that's why we are reaching out to work together."

Many Indigenous people have said they do not feel safe in Quebec's hospitals and health-care centres including those from Echaquan's community of Manawan, about 200 kilometres north of Joliette.

"The safety of our members in their interactions with the health system, particularly in Lanaudiere, is the top priority of the Atikamekw Council of Manawan," said Manawan Chief Paul-Emile Ottawa. "This investment can likely to contribute in this direction." 

-- with files from The Canadian Press.

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