June 15, 2024

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta committed to eliminating anti-Indigenous racism in health care by signing a historic memorandum of understanding with the Siksika Nation on Wednesday.

In a release on Wednesday afternoon, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) said it recognizes the influential role physicians and physician assistants have in health care.

All parties must play a role in eliminating systemic discrimination and racism in health-care settings and the memorandum of understanding will support reconciliation between physicians and Indigenous peoples, the organization added.

The CPSA pledged to incorporate Indigenous knowledge, perspective and elements of the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action into the regulatory framework it uses to govern members.

The memorandum of understanding also recognizes the Siksika Nation’s right to self-determination under the Constitution of Canada and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

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Siksika Health Services recognizes and endorses the CPSA’s regulatory authority over physicians and physician assistants practicing in their community, as well as authority in the accreditation of medical facilities.

“The significance of this day is historical and monumental,” said Ike Solway, board chair of Sisika Health Services and Siksika First Nations councillor.

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“Siksika Nation is exploring a more effective and enhanced way of looking at our health care system as well as the health of individuals.

“I think strengthening these opportunities with partnerships with the CPA is really enhancing our ability to kind of look at the generations moving forward.”

Solway added the nation is looking at opportunities to create its own health-care system. First Nations and Indigenous peoples have to be part of the process, but health-care workers need to be committed to understanding these perspectives.

Siksika Nation councillors are also looking at Treaty 7 and analyzing how it meets the needs of the nation, he said. Councillors are putting forward action items while also being mindful of the nation’s sovereignty.

“I think having that stronger approach and being at the table to create relationships and partnerships is saying that the Siksika Nation has the ability to move forward,” Solway said.

“We need to understand each other, and I think that’s awakening in itself … It’s coming together and really understanding each other and stepping away from the concept of just what we’re seeing in front of us more so the real understanding of why the individual is coming for the health care.”

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Scott Mcleod, the CPSA’s registrar and chief executive officer, said the memorandum of understanding is the first step to a “long journey” of reconciliation.

“This is the first step on a very long journey that we’re on together, to make sure that we do seriously address racism and discrimination that exists within the health care system,” he told Global News.

“We’re not the entire health care system. We’re a small part of it, but we have a responsibility as a leader in the health care system to take action.”

Mcleod said the CPSA will be working with its Indigenous Advisory Council to figure out next steps and action items to change the standards for physicians.

Currently, there are around 12,000 physicians and physician assistants in Alberta.

“Physicians are accountable for the work they do every day … If our job is to be able to help guide the profession to provide that safe, high quality care, that means we have a direct influence on the practice of physicians,” Mcleod said.

“Although physicians and physician assistants work within the broader health care system, and it is a very complex system, they still have a responsibility to meet the standards set by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta.

“There’s tremendous wisdom that we have gained just by coming down and participating in the ceremony, and learning more about those truths. And as hard as those truths are to hear, they’re important for us to hear.”

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