A Mi’kmaw leader in New Brunswick wants an apology from a doctor in Miramichi who posted a sign at his office for “Native People” not to “ask for tranquillizers or pain medications.”
George Ginnish, Chief of Natoagenag First Nation, called the sign at Dr. Allister Carter’s office discriminatory and racist towards Indigenous people.
“You just shake your head,” Chief Ginnish said in a phone interview Friday morning.
“I mean, this is a doctor. You’re supposed to be working with people towards health and to make a blanket statement, stereotype statement like that?” he said.
Maxine Ginnish, a social worker with the Rising Sun Treatment Centre in Natoagenag First Nation, took a picture of the sign when she visited Dr. Carter’s office on Thursday morning.
The sign, which was taped to the reception desk, read, “ATTN: Native People. Please don’t ask for tranquillizers or pain medications.”
“I had to get out of there as soon as I could,” Ginnish said in a phone interview Thursday. “My emotions were getting the best of me and I burst into tears,” she said.
“It was the first time that I have ever seen written proof of racism, blatant racism happening in our city,” she added.
Ginnish, 28, spoke with leaders in the community before posting the photo on Facebook.
“We decided to post (the photo) so we could let our neighbouring First Nation communities know that this doctor is in our city and he is serving our people and these are the beliefs that he holds” she explained.
“Addiction is the one thing that isn’t prejudiced or discriminatory and to single out one group is racism. It’s discrimination. It’s just so wrong,” she said.
Ginnish shared the photo with her friend, Christine Leigh Ward, who also posted the photo on Facebook. By Friday morning, the post was shared more than 1000 times and received more than 200 comments on the social media website.
“Good old Miramichi for you not racist at all first nation people are not the only ones that Battle addiction this makes me sick to my stomach and something needs to be done,” Ward wrote on Facebook.
Malcolm Ward, 35, from Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq Nation near Miramichi saw the picture of the sign on Facebook and decided to also visit Dr. Carter’s office.
“That shouldn’t be up. It’s disgusting,” Ward said when reached by phone Thursday.
“It’s literally targeting First Nations people for drug abuse,” he said.
The married father of five drove to the doctor’s office to ask him to take down the sign. When he arrived, the door was locked and the office appeared to have been closed for the afternoon.
Ward posted a video of his visit on Facebook.
“It’s 2017. We really don’t need that around here anymore,” Ward said.
Natoagenag Chief and Council likely to submit formal complaint
Dr. Ed Schollenberg, Registrar with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick, said he contacted Dr. Carter after receiving numerous phone calls and emails about the sign on Thursday.
“I spoke to Dr. Carter because he wasn’t sure how this arose,” Dr. Schollenberg said in a phone interview Friday morning.
“He said this was some kind of paper he had there for a number of years so he didn’t understand why it was an issue now,” he explained.
Dr. Schollenberg said the doctor told him he was going to remove the sign.
Dr. Carter could not be reached for comment.
Chief Ginnish said he and his council will likely submit a formal complaint against Dr. Carter to the Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick.
“How would a First Nations person feel if you’re going there for help and that’s what you see,” Chief Ginnish said.
“It just reinforces negative stereotypes, low self-esteem that many of our people suffer and struggle with constantly,” he said.
“Man, that’s just the wrong message from a person in authority. He’s got to realize that,” he added.
Meanwhile, Ginnish said the reaction she has seen online to her photo is encouraging.
“My day started in such a disheartening place and I’m honestly going to bed with a full and happy heart,” Ginnish said.
“To see the reaction that non-native, everyone is coming together and they see this behaviour. They’re not going to accept it anymore,” she said.