A physician at the Campbellton Regional Hospital handed out a "Greetings, Native Savages" sticker to a Listuguj First Nations child recently, prompting an outcry within the Listuguj community.
"This is unacceptable, insensitive and was very upsetting," said Listuguj Chief Scott Martin in a letter sent to Gilles Lanteigne, president and chief executive officer of the Vitalité Health Network.
"This level of insensitivity points to a dearth of cultural competency and cultural safety at your hospital," Martin said in the letter.
Martin wants to meet with Lanteigne over allegations of "disturbing stories of discrimination and unprofessional behaviour" on the part of staff at the Campbellton Regional Hospital.
Martin said there have been other situations that point to "racist attitudes" of some hospital staff, including an incident with a receptionist at the hospital who allegedly said she would not provide drugs to a band member who had come to the hospital for treatment.
"[She] made disparaging remarks by insinuating the individual would abuse these drugs.
'This is unacceptable.' - Scott Martin, chief of the Listuguj First Nation
This person had no drug convictions or addictions whatsoever."
The chief could not be reached for comment, but Paul Stanley, CEO of the band, said people are angry about these incidents.
He said the sticker is racist and insulting and should not have happened in 2016.
"I thought Canada was way past all this type of stuff, but apparently not," said Stanley.
"You would expect that when you have a multi-million dollar — billion dollar — organization such as this, they'd have a much better screening system operating there," he said.
Stanley said the situation is part of a bigger problem of systemic racism experienced by First Nations people.
"They are treated in a disrespectful and racist manner and other practices within the hospital reinforce that point of view. It's not just about a sticker, it's not just about an apology. It's about what is it we can do to make this not appear again," Stanley said.
Lanteigne said he received the letter from Martin this week and has spoken to the chief on the phone.
In terms of the alleged incident with a hospital staff member making inappropriate remarks about drugs, Lanteigne said he has asked the chief to provide more information.
As for the sticker incident, Lanteigne said the stickers were ordered in bulk and are from a Dreamworks movie called Home. He said the doctor who handed out the sticker did not realize what was on it.
"The physician did call the mum, and the head nurse did call the mum twice, to explain that unfortunately we had bought these stickers without realizing what was really written on them and that it could be insulting," he said.
"We apologized, we even called the company. We retrieved all these stickers from all our sites," Lanteigne said, pointing out these stickers have been given out, in error, in other parts of the country.
"Are these allegations founded and if they are well I committed we are going to do whatever it takes ... we just need a little bit more facts so we can look into the situation and take appropriate measures if they need to be taken."
Lanteigne said he looks forward to meeting with the chief, though no date has been set as yet.
When asked if he believes there is a problem with racism and discrimination at the Campbellton hospital, Lanteigne said he believes the situation at the hospital "is considerably improved."
"We do have staff from that community that work here ... We provide a lot of services to that community, so for us, it's important that every patient, every client that comes in this door is respected and gets the best possible services."
Paul Stanley said he believes there is a problem but he also believes there's a solution.
"A lot of those solutions are tied up in better communications," he said.
"We have an anti-racist group that can do educational outreach ... it's about conversations that are open and frank."