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Indigenous priority for COVID-19 vaccine sparks racist comments to North Vancouver MLA

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated Apr 6, 2021 at 6:21 pm PDT

Summary

All Indigenous adults are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in B.C.

MLA Bowinn Ma says she's received toxic, dangerous, and racist messages

'In the worst case, the comments are extremely racist,' Ma said

NORTH VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – North Vancouver-Lonsdale MLA Bowinn Ma says she’s received toxic, dangerous, and racist messages from people angry that all Indigenous adults in B.C. are now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine before some other age groups.

Ma says ever since the government prioritized Indigenous people for vaccinations, the amount of anti-Indigenous sentiments she’s received in correspondence has “gone through the roof.”

In a post to social media Monday night, Ma says the sentiments are mainly from people placing judgement on who is and isn’t deserving of the vaccine.

“I think in the best case scenario, I’ll receive emails where the question is raised as a genuine question and in the worst case, the comments are extremely racist,” Ma said. “Most of the correspondence falls somewhere in between.”

In her post, Ma explained that the prioritization of Indigenous peoples reflects advice provided by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI).

“The treatment of Indigenous peoples by Canada since colonization of these lands has led to severe inequities in the social determinants of health for Indigenous populations. This leads Indigenous populations to be demonstrably more vulnerable to illness and disease than the general population, including COVID-19. Anti-Indigenous racism within our health care system has also made health outcomes for this population even worse. The prioritization of Indigenous peoples in the vaccine rollout recognizes this terrible reality.”

She’s asking that people “push back on misunderstanding.”

“The reality is that we all become safer as more and more people are vaccinated – even if it’s not inside our own bodies – so every dose in an arm is good news for all of us. At the end of the day, we will all be offered our first dose by June, three full months ahead of the original schedule of September. Let’s stick together, everyone,” she wrote.

Related article: COVID-19 vaccinations in B.C.: What you need to know

Last Wednesday, the province extended COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to include anyone 18 or older who identifies as Indigenous. Last week, Squamish Nation spokesperson Khelsilem welcomed the move, noting the community faces challenges that “have made it harder for Indigenous people to survive and thrive in the pandemic.”

However, Khelsilem was critical of the government’s communication, noting there were many Indigenous people who were not aware that are now eligible.

“I think the call centres weren’t properly informed of what the changes are and so I know of Indigenous peoples who are becoming quite frustrated and offended,” Khelsilem said.

With files from Martin MacMahon and Robyn Crawford