APTN National News
The sign reads: “ATTN: Native Patients. Please don’t ask for tranquilizers or pain medications.”
Maxine Ginnish heard about the sign and went to Dr. Allister Carter’s family practice to see for herself.
“My heart broke and I had to get out of there as soon as I could because I burst into tears,” said Ginnish. “It was the first time I’d ever seen proof of such racism.”
She posted of picture of the sign on Facebook. The outcry was immediate.
“Good old Miramichi for you not racist at all first nation people are not the only ones that Battle addiction this makes me sick to my stomach and something needs to be done,” wrote Christine Leigh Ward, who shared the photo on Thursday.
Ward’s post was shared over six hundred times in just the first few hours.
Ginnish is a social worker in addictions in the Eel Ground First Nation, just a few minutes way from Miramichi. She said addiction and opioid abuse affects all cultures and communities.
“So why do we have to stigmatize our people?” asked Ginnish. “Imagine if a First Nation cancer patient went in there looking for pain management. I mean, come on…It’s disheartening.”
Ginnish immediately informed her community leaders about the sign and said there was a flurry of phone calls to local health authorities and Health Canada.
“We need to have these discussions,” said Ginnish. “They’re uncomfortable but these things need to be said that racism is alive in our healthcare system.”
George Ginnish is the chief of the Eel Ground First Nation.
He was in a meeting and could not be reached for comment, but posted on Facebook: “Not really impressed with Health care providers racially profiling and denying certain medications based on race, especially when we have been trying to meet in regard to the opioid crisis in our nations and getting very few Doctors willing to meet and assist us with proactive measures.”
The chief assured people that he was told the “offending note” has been taken down, but added “…we need some follow up. If you aren’t part of the solution then you are part of the problem.”
Carter could not be reached for comment.
Malcolm Ward, from the Metepenagiag First Nation not far from Miramichi, drove to the doctor’s office after hearing about the sign. He wanted to make sure it was taken down. But the doctor’s office was closed.
“I’m pretty mad,” said Ward in a Facebook video outside the doctor’s office. “Let’s put an end to all this racism. It’s got to stop. I had enough of this. It’s 2017, folks. We have old school doctors writing notes like that, they shouldn’t even be in the business at all.”
Ward is urging people to write a complaint to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick.
Dr. Shawn Burke, a representative for the College, spoke briefly on the phone with APTN but called the sign a “non-story.”
Burke said it was his understanding the sign at Dr. Carter’s office had been written several years ago. He declined to comment further, saying he didn’t know enough about the situation at this time.
Ginnish said it doesn’t matter if the sign is old or new.
“We need to have more sensitivity and cultural awareness, especially with Canada 150,” said Ginnish. “Because we’re not celebrating. When you think of addiction from the structural viewpoint, it’s all a symptom of our colonization, our cultural loss of land, our language. And our people are being further stigmatized from seeking help.”
Ginnish said community leaders in Eel Ground have already filed complaints.