Indigenous

Vancouver Island hospital named in allegations of racist 'game' that sparked investigation

A hospital on Vancouver Island was named in allegations recently revealed by British Columbia's health minister that emergency room staff played a "game" to guess the blood-alcohol level of Indigenous patients, CBC News has learned. 

Health authority responsible for hospital would not confirm or deny allegation

B.C. has launched an investigation into allegations of a racist "game" played by emergency room staff. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

A hospital on Vancouver Island was named in allegations recently revealed by British Columbia's health minister that emergency room staff played a "game" to guess the blood-alcohol level of Indigenous patients, CBC News has learned. 

The Saanich Peninsula Hospital on Vancouver Island was one of the hospitals named in allegations about the game, CBC News has learned. 

The allegations, which first surfaced during Indigenous cultural safety training conducted by the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA), were made public Friday. 

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix has appointed former judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond to investigate. 

Turpel-Lafond told CBC News Friday she was aware of one incident involving "a range of people" and at least one health authority in B.C. will be investigated. Other health authorities could also be investigated depending on the results of the initial investigation, said Turpel-Lafond. 

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond spoke to reporters on June 19, 2020, about her investigation into allegations a racist game has been played in at least one B.C. emergency room. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

According to Métis Nation B.C. and the B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres, who brought forward the allegations, staff called the game "The Price Is Right." Physicians and nurses would try to guess the blood-alcohol level of incoming patients they presumed to be Indigenous as closely as they could, without going over. Neither organization identified the name of the hospital or health authority involved.

Saanich Peninsula Hospital and Healthcare Foundation CEO Karen Morgan referred questions to hospital officials. A hospital official then referred questions to Island Health, the provincial authority that oversees the hospital.   

In a statement, Island Health would neither confirm or deny the allegations. 

"Island Health's CEO has been clear with all staff and medical staff, stating if this behaviour is occurring — whether in an emergency department or any other service area — it must stop immediately," said the authority in an emailed statement. 

"As an investigation is underway into these allegations, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time."

The PHSA referred questions to Island Health. 

The B.C. Nurses' Union did not respond to a request for comment.

The Tsartlip, Tsawout, Pauquachin and Tseycum First Nations were recently involved in a project to give the Saanich hospital the name of ŁÁU,WELNEW,ÁUTW in the SENĆOŦEN language. The name was unveiled on March 11 and means "a place of healing."

Tsartlip First Nation Chief Don Tom said he wanted to look into the issue further before commenting. 

First Nations Health Council Chair Charlene Belleau said she was grateful that the issue was raised publicly and  "admires" whoever it was that first brought up the allegations. 

"It's such a violation that's happened here. I think of the sacred responsibilities that they have for the care of our people, yet this happens," said Belleau. 

"It really shakes our people."

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