'I've never seen anything like this': First Nation still reeling from 'racist' note

Residents of the Natoaganeg First Nation are still reacting to the news a Miramichi doctor had posted what is being described as a racist note in his office.

Chief George Ginnish says dialogue on issue will begin with local health region

A sign in the Natoaganeg First Nation in eastern New Brunswick. (Radio Canada)

Chief George Ginnish of the Natoaganeg First Nation says the band council will meet with Horizon Health officials about a Miramichi doctor who posted what is being described as a racist note in his office.

The note attached to the reception desk in Dr. Allister Carter's office asked "native patients" not to request tranquillizers or pain medications. 

Since a picture of the note landed on social media Thursday, the community has been reacting with shock, anger and questions about how doctors view patients from First Nations.

Maxine Ginnish took a photo of the note on the reception desk at the the office of Miramichi physician Dr. Allister Carter. The note has been removed. (Maxine Ginnish/Facebook)

"Is this something that exists within the medical profession?" Ginnish said in an interview Friday. "Is this systemic or is this a one-off?

"Because we absolutely would worry about the service to our people if this is in the back of the minds of many physicians, immediately they see a brown face, and they're here for prescription drugs."

Ginnish said the attitude the note conveyed was wrong on many levels.

"You are going there, you are looking for help. You're an individual, you need to look at that person, with what their needs are." 

Singled out

The note has been taken down, but Ginnish is still wondering why the doctor ever allowed it to go up.

"It would be different if the sign said don't ask for opiods, don't ask for narcotics period. It would apply to everyone. But when you single out First Nations. ... I've never seen anything like this," said Chief George Ginnish.   

"You wonder what ... why, why?" 

Ginnish said the call he made for an apology Thursday still stands.

"And part of that would have the individual own up for having that attitude, and perhaps this is an opportunity to educate this individual." 

No apology had been made to the chief by the end of the day Friday.

Chief George Ginnish of the Natoaganeg First Nation says a decision will be made soon on whether to file a formal complaint against a Miramichi doctor. (Radio Canada)

But Ginnish said the Horizon Health Network got in touch with the band council to discuss the issue, and he is accepting the offer.

The band will hold off deciding whether to file a formal complaint with the New Brunswick College of Physicians and Surgeons until after it has more discussions.

In an email, Registrar Ed Schollenberg wrote, "We have no formal complaint ... several informal concerns expressed."

Community upset

Marcy Cloud-McPhail said she felt sad that a doctor who was supposed to be helping people would allow such a note in his office.

"I was pretty shocked that they would be bold enough to actually have a note in the office that would say something like that," said Cloud-McPhail. "It's not something uncommon to hear but its uncommon to actually see someone put it up." 

Rita Martin of the Natoaganeg First Nation says a note like that is a step back for the First Nation. (Radio Canada)
Learning the note had been there for a long time was upsetting to her.

Cloud-McPhail said she has never been subjected to discrimination in the medical community, but has encountered it in the retail community. 

"You feel it in the communities. You can tell, but we've never seen it written out." 

As a health care professional, community member Shelby Tenass said she, too, was shocked and saddened by the note. 

"To say only natives ... I don't think that was right." 

Rita Martin said it felt like a step back for her community.

"For somebody to actually have something written on their desk for people to see in a negative way. … I thought we got past all that many years ago." 

With files from Gabrielle Fahmy