There should be no tolerance for racism in our healthcare system. We need more Inuit working within our healthcare system," says MLA Cathy Towtongie.
photo courtesy of the Government of Nunavut

Some “high-level” government officials are making staffing decisions and inappropriate comments towards Inuit “driven by racism and nepotism,” says MLA Cathy Towtongie.

“There are many Inuit who are experienced and qualified to do jobs, but are
not being hired into positions. Instead of recognizing the skills and abilities of Inuit who
can do the work, senior managers are hiring people from outside of the territory who
often leave after a couple of years,” Towtongie, who represents Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet, said in the legislative assembly on Tuesday.

“A number of my constituents have come to me, to my home a number of times to complain about racist treatment they have experienced, some of it in the health field … There should be no tolerance for racism in our healthcare system. We need more Inuit working within our healthcare system. If our government continues to tolerate racist attitudes, we will not achieve this goal,” she said.

She referenced a recent media article that outlined the downfall of the midwifery program in Rankin Inlet, which was “shoddily run for many years due to senior management paternalism and racial denigration of the Inuit workers, so it makes one wonder if we can even run one here in Nunavut where Inuit form the majority,” said Towtongie. The two Inuit midwives resigned last year.

She asked Health Minister Lorne Kusugak about complaints received from staff within his department relating to racism.

He replied that such complaints may exist, but he hasn’t been notified of them. He also explained that there is a complaint form that can be submitted anonymously to raise concerns about racism or any kind of harassment.

“I encourage anybody out there that are staff; senior staff or junior staff that feel that they are being misrepresented or bullied, or any of those to please fill out the form and make complaint,” said Kusugak. “For anybody who feels that they have an opportunity in Health or any other department; that they have an opportunity to apply for a job that is higher than or lower than the position they’re in, please apply for it. You don’t need anybody’s permission to apply for a job. You go and do it without seeking requirements from your supervisor.”

He added that he has instructed officials within his department to look into issues at the Rankin Inlet Birthing Centre to correct the situation and “move forward so that this does not happen to them or anybody else again in the Department of Health.”

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  1. Please post how to anonymously make complaints. Some departments are not allowing anonymous complaints even if you ask.

    1. Hi Pat. While addressing the legislative assembly, Minister Kusugak referred to a 10-10 form for use in anonymous complaints.

      1. Someone should check but I’m hearing of people making 1010 reports and not being allowed anonymity. What GN says and does may be 2 things different.

  2. Cathy Towtoongie, I take my hat off to you. I’m so happy you spoke up for us. We need you. That is absolutely right about southerners coming up there and leave. While Inuit who are very capable of doing the duties and what not just watch while someone moves up to nunavut, gets the job, moves out later. Racism is so visible up there. Authoritative ppl tend to manipulate racism and hide behind plastic faces. Inuit should and never have to be belittled through racism in their own surroundings. Everything educational, medical, and other departments, at the job, is always a fair ground for racism. We never had a university degree derived from our schools up in nunavut. I’ve had my fair share of racism right from school and jobs because of my inability to further my education, I was looked at as a dumb Inuit. But I credit my knowledge of Inuit tradition and lifestyle living in my Inuit surroundings. The more we speak out about racism, it gets easier to deal with, but who wants to speak out. I am acting out as a support for the midwives who had to quit! We need them. In the case of a young woman who just had a baby we all know of who died from Covid might have been preventable, if there had been midwives where shes from. We, the Inuit need to have more Inuit women to be trained, properly supported, from both federal and nunavut government thru any available fundings, places for training and place confidence in our tradition once again. Racism should never be around, its a useless thing that interrupts our daily work! Us Inuit have babies, children, elders to protect from an atrocity that is preventable. I find that so upsetting to see racism hiding around every corner of the job. We have the very same right to go forward as whoever are racist. We’re just as smart, capable, we just don’t have a diploma to prove that smartness. We can do anything possible without the bias!

  3. biggest problem is our own people will complain about the certified inuk until he quits then hire family members even if they are not educated . Stop telling our young ones that they don’t need education to work, they do need the education . A lot of times when a kid graduates high school it depends which family member he/she came from , there are kids with no family member working for school they don’t mean anything to them then the principle just tend to treat them as runts . Why do we hire southerners and then harass them telling them to go back where they came from without really trying to educate our own kids . It just don’t make sense guys . I’m inuk too .

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