Health care inequities for Aboriginal women
There are 1.1 million Aboriginal peoples living in Canada as of 1996 and 408,100 of them are women (Statistics Canada, 2000; Dion Stout et al, 2001). More than half live in urban centres and two thirds of those reside in Western Canada (Hanselmann, 2001). Vancouver is comprised of 28,000 Aboriginal people representing 7% of the population (Joseph, 1999). Of this total population, 70% live in Vancouver’s poorest neighbourhood which is the Downtown Eastside (DTES).
Health care inequities can be elucidated by the research that identifies the social, economic and political ideologies that reflect aspects of cultural safety (Crandon, 1986; O’Neil, 1989 as cited in Browne & Fiske, 2001). There are various factors that affect the mistreatment of aboriginal peoples as they access health care in local health care facilities such as hospitals and clinics. Aboriginal women face many barriers and are discriminated against as a result based on their visible minority status such as race, gender and class (Gerber, 1990; Dion Stout, 1996; Voyageur, 1996 as cited in Browne & Fiske, 2001). A study done on Aboriginal peoples in Northern B.C. showed high rates of unemployment, underemployment and dependency on social welfare monies (Browne & Fiske, 2001). This continued political economic marginalisation of aboriginal peoples widens the gap between the colonizers and the colonized. The existence of racial profiling of aboriginal peoples by “Indian status” often fuels more stigmatization of these people because other Canadians who do not see the benefits of compensations received with having this status often can be resentful in what they may perceive is another compensation to aboriginal peoples. The repercussions of residential schools that were made public after 1946 contribute to some of that generations mistrust of health care professionals and magnet hospitals. The sexual, physical, mental and emotional misconduct led to these individuals being traumatised along with their families and communities (Browne & Fiske, 2001). All of these social, political and economic factors contribute to how aboriginal women experiences accessing health care services.
In a study done by Browne and Fiske (2001) ten Aboriginal women were required to provide insight regarding their treatment in local hospitals in Northern B.C. The women in this study described being dismissed and their health issues not being taken seriously but rather trivial instead. They reported being promptly discharged and then having to return in most cases with their previous illness exacerbated. Other participants reported feelings of prejudice and assumed that their mistreatment was due to their race, gender and class. Other women in the study were found to only access health care when symptoms were unbearable for fear of being dismissed and because that was what was the ideology that was taught in residential school; where in suffering was to be...