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The Unforgotten

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October Messenger 2021, Physician Assistants, Physicians | Posted October 14, 2021
Read time: 1 minute

A must-see film that shares facts and stories of health inequalities for Indigenous peoples

About this film

The Unforgotten explores Canadian health care through the shared experience of Inuit, Metis and First Nations peoples across stages of life: birth, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and elderhood. Shot on location across Canada, it tells stories of those who have been forcibly sterilized, abused in hospital, displaced, ignored to death, starved and forced from their homes and land under the guise of health service.

“The right to health is one of a set of internationally agreed human rights standards”[1], upheld by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights[2] and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms[3].

Yet health outcome inequities in Canada are evident; a 2019 Statistics Canada report on life expectancy in Canada found that:

  • Inuit living in Canada die on average 11.3 years younger than non-Indigenous Canadians;
  • First Nations people living in Canada die on average 9.25 years younger than non-Indigenous Canadians; and
  • Metis people living in Canada die on average 4.75 years younger than non-Indigenous Canadians.

Most Canadians are probably unaware of these statistics and hold our healthcare system in high esteem. Yet, beneath the veneer of respectability lies a dark history that has largely remained untold: that in Canada, health service has been used as a tool to reinforce racist stereotypes, and subjugate and assimilate Indigenous peoples. Although Indigenous peoples living in Canada have long known this history, it remains hidden to most Canadians, including individuals working in the health sector.  

What you can do
To perform our duty as physicians and provide equitable, competent, compassionate care to all peoples living in Canada, it is essential to understand the trauma resulting from colonial practices in the Canadian health service. The Unforgotten—a short 35-minute film funded by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA)—shines a light on human stories behind the history of health inequities for Indigenous peoples living in Canada. The CMA created and released the film to raise consciousness and prompt a better understanding of Indigenous health service in Canada, with the hope of promoting a dialogue around improved health equity. Please take this opportunity to watch The Unforgotten.

[1] World Health Organization

[2] United Nations

[3] Government of Canada

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