A new video from NCCIH and BC Northern Health titled ‘Healing in Pandemic Times: Indigenous Peoples, Stigma and COVID-19’ was animated by Joanne Gervais. (Photo Provided By: NCCIH Archives)

A new video from NCCIH and BC Northern Health titled ‘Healing in Pandemic Times: Indigenous Peoples, Stigma and COVID-19’ was animated by Joanne Gervais. (Photo Provided By: NCCIH Archives)

VIDEO: Stigma against Indigenous people is a ‘social sickness’

A new short animated video is aiming to educate the public on the stigmatization

By Catherine Lafferty, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse

As communities work to stop the spread of COVID-19, Indigenous health experts say there is a “social sickness” that also must be addressed.

A new short animated video is aiming to educate the public on the stigmatization that’s faced by Indigenous communities in the wake of the pandemic.

The video, co-produced by the National Collaborating Centre for Indigenous Health (NCCIH) and BC Northern Health, is titled “Healing in Pandemic Times: Indigenous Peoples, Stigma and COVID-19.”

Dr. Margo Greenwood, academic leader of NCCIH, is the executive producer of the video, which she says she hopes will start important conversations around stigma and discrimination.

“When we begin to talk about these things I think we begin to learn,” she says. “I think education is a critical way to address stigma.”

The four-and-a-half-minute video is narrated by Dr. Evan Adams of Tla’amin First Nation and features a Nlaka’pamux healing song.

In the video, Adams — who is well known for playing Thomas in the famous 1998 film Smoke Signals — speaks over a cartoon animation by Joanne Gervais. The cartoon shows people in various scenarios, such as a group of people whispering and pointing at an Indigenous woman.

“Pandemics can promote harmful stigmatization,” Adams says during the video. “COVID-19 is a physical virus. Stigma is a social sickness.”

Greenwood says the initial idea for the video was prompted by Mary Ellen Turpond-Lafond`s recent In Plain Sight report that outlined systemic racism in B.C.’s healthcare system.

Greenwood says there are many harmful and untrue stereotypes that are anchored in colonial views and reinforced through generations.

“Our work today is to challenge those old stereotypes, to know when they’re influencing our thinking and our behaviors,” she says.

“Once we are aware and we know we are being influenced by them we need to challenge them. I’m really hopeful that this video will promote that kind of reflection and discussion and it will illuminate the urgent need for change.”

On Jan. 14, CBC News released a story wherein Indigenous people in Powell River, Port Hardy and Duncan spoke of being denied service in various establishments after COVID-19 outbreaks in their communities.

The same day, B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry spoke out against this discriminatory behavior in her regular COVID-19 update, saying this type of racism “must stop.”

“This type of racism cannot be tolerated and I stand against this with my colleagues to say this must stop on Vancouver Island and elsewhere,” she said.

“Racism has no place in our society, in our communities here in British Columbia and we must all take the time to speak out and speak up.”

Henry said it has become clear that First Nations, Metis and Inuit Peoples in British Columbia did not come into the pandemic on equal footing to the rest of the province.

“COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate, but systems do,” she said. “It has illuminated for us many long-standing inequities in different parts of our society.”

Meanwhile, other Indigenous communities are also speaking out against stigma during the pandemic.

Snuneymuxw First Nation released an open letter stating people in that community and the nearby Cowichan Tribes have also experienced racism after a COVID-19 outbreak.

“Similar commentary was also seen in a number of other communities around British Columbia,” the Jan. 15 letter states.

“Anti-Indigenous racism has no place in B.C.’s pandemic response or community commentary.”

The letter is co-signed by Snuneymuxw Chief Mike Wyse and six other community leaders, including Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog, Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly and Telaxten Paul Sam of the First Nations Health Council.

It points out that some of the commentary has been around Indigenous communities receiving urgent access to the vaccine — saying that Indigenous peoples require this access because of proven poorer health outcomes and chronic health conditions.

“Together we need to continue to stand up for respectful treatment of Indigenous Peoples and nations,” the letter continues.

“The burden of addressing racism needs to come off the shoulders of Indigenous peoples.”

Greenwood says she is hopeful that the new video will begin to unpack definitions such as stigma and stereotypes that will help people in organizations to question their own thinking around differences with respect to racial inequalities.

“Sometimes we’re just not aware of our own biases, of those unfavourable beliefs or opinions that we hold and sometimes we don’t even know where they came from,” Greenwood says.

“I’m hopeful that the video adds critical information that will promote important conversation on how best to address and stop stigma and discrimination.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The 5th Street Bridge requires structural improvements, new coating to repair and prevent corrosion, and deck repairs. File photo
City of Courtenay awards contract for 5th Street Bridge project

The City of Courtenay has awarded the contract for the rehabilitation of… Continue reading

Pumpjacks pump crude oil near Halkirk, Alta., June 20, 2007.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Gas prices jump in the Valley – and experts predict prices to rise even more

“We still could be talking about record prices…”

NIC Practical Nursing instructor Barb McPherson (right) is pictured with student Rebecca Wood in 2018 in NIC’s SIM lab. NIC photo
Learn about Practical Nursing opportunities for Island students

Students interested in exploring a future in health care are invited to… Continue reading

The Comox Valley Cycling Coalition is hoping to see more bike lines in the Cumberland area. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Cycling coalition wants better bike links for Cumberland

Group says members want more connections with Comox Valley

The Courtenay Legion has identified 16 homeless veterans living in the Comox Valley. File photo
Courtenay Legion unites with Qualicum to help homeless veterans

Last year’s Point-in-Time (PIT) homeless count conducted in the Comox Valley identified… Continue reading

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Most Read