Woman Warriors Newsletter

Treated, Not Dying: Surviving Canada’s Healthcare System (Part 2 of 2)

By Rhonda Kronyk


Many of us have it within our power to make changes – even when we don’t realize we have that power. 

For starters, we can lobby universities, health care providers, social agencies and hospitals to invite Indigenous researchers, policy advisors, decision-makers and knowledge into health care education and management. And I don’t mean invite people to take on meaningless roles where their knowledge and perspectives are effectively ignored. I’m talking about meaningful positions where the issues Indigenous patients face in the health care systems are addressed. Not endlessly studied. Addressed. They need to be positions where Indigenous input leads to the deep changes that must happen to change the statistics.

It sounds so simple – just ask and it will happen. The reality is we know it won’t be that easy. But the more people phone their MLAs and write letters to hospital administrators and universities, the more those institutions will begin to take notice. Right now, making these changes are low on their priority lists. We have to change that and the only way to do so is to make our voices heard and make change a priority.

And Indigenous people can advocate for each other. If a friend or relative is struggling to access medical care, the community might need to come together and make sure that person gets looked after.

I know that none of this should be necessary. I know it shouldn’t be on the shoulders of Indigenous people to change the system. Frankly, there should be no need to change a system that supposedly treats everybody equally. But that’s not the reality. And that means that we can’t wait for somebody else to do the work.

For myself, I’m in somewhat of a unique situation. I’m a settler/Dene woman with skills that allow me to come at this from a different perspective.

I’m a member of the Indigenous Editors Association and we’re working to decolonize the Canadian publishing industry. It’s been rewarding to watch the industry work with us by supporting us on many levels. Meaningful change is beginning to happen.

This experience has caused me to look at my work from a different perspective. I generally edit and proofread fiction and non-fiction manuscripts by Indigenous writers. But what if I were to expand that work? What if I were to approach the medical profession as a whole with an offer to help them publish articles that respect Indigenous Peoples and cultures? I think that doing so might be a way to bring about change from within because some of the doctors and researchers writing articles will begin to rethink the ways they treat Indigenous patients.

I’m not being naïve about this. We know that some non-Indigenous people in Canada will never change and their racism will continue to negatively impact people. But even small changes, frustrating as the slow pace of change is, will begin to make a difference. And if we can teach people that changing their approach doesn’t mean giving up their use of western medicine but simply means opening themselves to new perspectives, change will begin to spread throughout the system. And just maybe Indigenous people will stop dying in hospital emergency waiting rooms.

I know I’m not the only one who has found a way to use my skills to find ways to bring about change. I’m curious about your ideas about how to fix a badly broken system.

Last week’s Part 1 of 2 Treated, Not Dying: Surviving Canada’s Healthcare System. 

You can also download this entire 2 part newsletter as a PDF by clicking here.

Rhonda Kronyk is a settler/Dene writing, editing and grant consultant. She lives on Treaty 6 lands in her adopted city of amiskwaciwâskahikan (Edmonton). As a member of the Indigenous Editors Association, she is working to change the Canadian publishing industry to ensure books that are respectful of Indigenous Peoples and culture are published. You can find her on her website or contact@rhondakronyk.ca. Follow her on twitter @ThisAndThatYEG

News stories pertaining to racism within the Canadian health care system:

  1. Grieving Inuit families blame racism of health-care workers for deaths of loved ones.
  2. Brian Sinclair: A man was ignored to death in an ER 10 years ago. It could happen again. 
  3. New report highlights racism in health care.
Dr. Carrie Bourassa
Listen to my interview with Dr. Bourassa on how racism impacts health and the importance of cultural safety in the healthcare system. 

Our University of Calgary MA student of Cultural Anthropology, Megan Sampson presenting a poster about her ethnographic research with Women Warriors at Obesity Week in Nashville, Tenn. on November 11-15th.
Last week, November 7th & 8th I attended the Indigenous Women’s Justice Forum in Edmonton. It was hosted by the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women (IAAW) and it was an informative and transformative experience hearing from the speakers. I am planning a special podcast episode with a speaker from this conference, Lisa Graham, Provincial Coordinator – Missing Persons, MMIW Initiative, Justice and Solicitor General, Government of Alberta.
My friend and full-time employee of the IAAW, Stephanie Harpe (right), Project Coordinator (Adult Women’s Leadership) hosts a group for friends and relatives of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women. Please contact IAAW for more information. You can listen to Stephanie’s personal story on our podcast interview Stephanie Harpe on Intergenerational Trauma, Healing & Advocating for MMIW.
The Indigenous Women’s Justice Forum had ample opportunity for round circle discussions and networking. Everyone at my table had interesting perspectives on the criminal justice system. I made some great connections with attendees and I’m looking forward to the IAAW publication from this conference. Please review the free resource guide they handed out at the conference, Our Breaking Point: Canada’s Violation of Rights in Life and Death.

Calgary Women Warriors Updates

The City of Calgary will be offering Women Warriors at two different locations in January: Forest Lawn Activity Centre and Village Square Leisure Centre. In order to engage the community and attract participants, they are offering teaser sample sessions. Please review the poster above for details and register for the SAMPLE session with Joleen (403) 366-3994.

Women Warriors Calgary 8 Weeks to Healthy Living Programs are scheduled for the following dates and times:

Jan 8th – Feb 26th
Village Square Leisure Center
2623 56 St NE

Jan 10th – Feb 28th
Bob Bahan Aquatic Center
4812 14 Ave SE

You MUST register in order to participate. Please share with your friends and family.

Please direct all inquiries about the Women Warriors program to my email: Shelley@womenwarriors.club. As the co-founder of this program, I am happy to address any questions. Dr. Sonja Wicklum and I are the only contacts to discuss hosting this program in your community. Thank you.