When First Nation people are judged and treated unfairly or differently simply because they are First Nations that is racism. Racism is built on incorrect beliefs that one race or group of people is better or worse than another.

Systemic racism refers to the ways that white supremacy is reflected and upheld in the systems in our society. It looks at larger structures such as education systems, health care systems, policing and justice systems, rather than individual biases and behaviours.

All these systems are built with an already ingrained bias, a racist and discriminatory lens that doesn’t provide or allow for equal or fair opportunities for racialized peoples to succeed.

In a settler colonial state like Canada, the systems that were put in place at the creation of the country benefited colonists and disadvantaged Indigenous peoples.  The state took land away from Indigenous people all across Turtle Island to create wealth and opportunities for settlers.  Much of our society today continues to reinforce this power dynamic.

The current COVID-19 pandemic is another example of systemic racism at work as the pandemic exacerbates existing racial inequalities and the systems that produce economic inequality and racialized poverty.

It is time for change.


Racism in Health Care

Overwhelming evidence of systemic racism towards First Nation people has been found in a Racism in Health Care Survey (PDF) conducted in December of 2020 and January of 2021 by SCO on Manitoba’s health care system.  Seventy per cent of respondents in the study report that they have experienced instances of racism when accessing services and programs in the Manitoba health care system, and nearly 80 per cent report witnessing a family member or loved one being discriminated against or treated badly because of their race. An overwhelming majority, 92 per cent of survey respondents, either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that racism is a problem in Manitoba’s healthcare system.  More than half of respondents are deterred from seeking medical help due to experiences of racism within the health care system.

These statistics on racism have real world outcomes for First Nation people in Manitoba. A 2019 joint study from the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba and the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy at the University of Manitoba found that First Nation people in Manitoba have a life expectancy that is on average eleven years shorter than non-First Nation people, and that the gap is growing.

Additional Resources

Additional Currated Resources

SCO Press Releases on Racism