Standing up for all people: why silence on racism is not an option

While systemic racism and discrimination seem very much like the “issue of the day,” people around the world, and here in our own communities, have confronted racism and other forms of discrimination for much of our history. The College recognizes the collective power of a unified stance against discrimination, and that it cannot stay silent on such an important issue. This is why we have spoken out against discrimination in all its forms, including the recent rise of anti-Asian discrimination in our province, and the systemic racism faced by Black, Indigenous, and people of colour. 

To ensure safe and competent care for all BC patients, the College administers regulatory processes that are unprejudiced and free of bias. Just as important, we must ensure that individuals are treated equally with dignity, courtesy and respect, and without discrimination. 

To achieve this, we have taken steps to address racism and discrimination in our regulatory proceedings and policies, and in our day-to-day operations. Starting with our registrants and patients, the College’s Access to Medical Care practice standard clearly states that medical care must be equally available to all patients regardless of race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, and age, including those who are vulnerable and marginalized.

In 2019, our board and committee composition matrices were introduced to ensure the governance of the College is inclusive and reflective of British Columbia’s diverse population. In addition to skills and competencies, the governors are selected based on attributes that include experiences, backgrounds and perspectives of First Nations as well as those of diverse communities representing different cultural groups, gender and sexual identities and the lived experience of disability. 

Since signing the Declaration of Commitment – Cultural Safety and Humility in the Regulation of Health Professionals in 2017, the College has taken steps to make BC’s health system more culturally safe and effective for First Nations and Indigenous people. This includes requiring all board members, the leadership team, and employees who engage directly with the public to complete the Indigenous Cultural Competency (San'yas) Training Program, and collecting data from registrants about completion of this program.

Recent events have highlighted the uncomfortable truth that racism and inequality is as prevalent as ever in our society. While I am proud of the actions the College has taken to combat this problem, I also recognize much more needs to be done.

In addition to taking action, the College is equally committed to listening and learning. The public we serve is made up of diverse communities, each with their own voices, experiences and struggles. Whether it is through the BC Public Advisory Network, College surveys, or other consultation channels, I urge all British Columbians to share their voice. To truly serve and protect patients in BC, the College must listen and learn about the injustices and inequalities people face so that we can do our part as a health regulator to eliminate them.

Heidi M. Oetter, MD
Registrar and CEO