Dozens gathered for a rally outside of Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital earlier this week in support of an Indigenous Duncan man who was allegedly denied respectful care.
The demonstration held Tuesday (July 21) was organized by Taliais Treena Black, who says it has been a month of living hell for her family since her son, 23-year-old Connor Sutton, was placed in a psychiatric ward at the hospital.
“I want to bring this into the light for all those that go through the same thing and don’t have a mom or someone on the outside that can use their voice to help bring awareness and change,” she wrote in a Facebook post a few hours before the rally.
Sutton is a member of the Canadian Armed Forces and T’sou-ke First Nation located on southern Vancouver Island.
He was reportedly told to go to a homeless shelter by hospital staff who refused to assist him after he sought aid at a hospital in Duncan in June for chest pains, vomiting, speech and breathing difficulties, as well as severe confusion due to a hole in his esophagus.
The family said doctors at Royal Jubilee still don’t have a diagnosis.
In a news release also issued this week, Chief Don Tom, vice president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs called on Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, who is leading an investigation into allegations of anti-Indigenous racism in the health care system, to get involved.
“For Connor to be involuntarily held in the psych ward with the immense physical, emotional, and mental trauma he is experiencing, and with there being no proper diagnosis of his condition, is cruel and appalling,” said Tom.
Tom also urged officials with the armed forces to get involved.
In an emailed statement to Black Press Media, Island Health Authority CEO Kathy MacNeil said she and executive lead for Indigenous Health, Dawn Thomas, met with Black the day after the rally and are looking into Sutton’s case.
“Island Health has acknowledged systemic anti-Indigenous racism occurs within our health authority,” MacNeil said.
Island Health is committed to supporting the review by Turpel-Lafond, she added.
Turpel-Lafond was appointed earlier this month by B.C’s Minister of Health, Adrian Dix to lead an independent investigation into racism within the province’s health care system the day after shocking allegations were brought forward that emergency room nurses and doctors were playing a Price is Right-style game to guess the blood alcohol level of patients.
The First Nations Health Authority has urged all Indigenous people to complete a survey of their health care experiences, which will assist Turpel-Lafond’s in understanding the presence and extent of First Nations, Metis and Inuit specific discrimination in B.C.’s health care system.
The survey closes July 30.