Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Surrendering Values to Discriminatory Accommodation

"I remember vividly and give thanks for being granted Canadian citizenship many years ago in the citizenship court presided over by Joe Young in Regina. I came here as a boat person and had to learn Canadian ways, work hard and assimilate while often facing slurs like "You can be sent right back on the boat to where you came from if you cause us any problems". Under the tutelage of my parents, excellent teachers and members of the nurturing community of Lafleche, Sask., I learned to respect the two founding cultures of Canada and those of Canada's First Peoples; to adopt and live by Canadian values, norms and laws; and to use both official languages, French and English, correctly.
"Millions of immigrants to Canada from all over the world have done the same. They join me in their valid expectation new immigrants, however they got here, including other boat people like me, to do the same or leave, taking their attitudes and baggage with them."
Dennis Hall, Saskatoon [Letter to the Editor, National Post]

"Allowing immigration without checking cultural attitudes is like buying a motor for a canoe. You don't know whether it will speed things up or sink the craft."
Jonathan Usher, Toronto [Letter to the Editor, National Post]

"If we don't engage in the (cultural) discussion, we won't fully understand their health needs and they won't get met."
"So ultimately they will get sicker and be a greater cost to the health-care system." 
"For some cultures who do not generally take pharmaceutical medication, this [drug treatment] is very frightening."
Marie Serdynska, head, Montreal Children's Hospital, socio-cultural consultation and interpretation services 

"It's challenging to the caregivers in that situation, when the mother is at the bedside and the father is able to visit only in the evenings."
"And we believe that both equally have decision-making power, both should have information."
Dr. Jonathan Hellman, neo-natal intensive care unit, Toronto's SickKids Hospital

"Some might respond very categorically, 'Nope, in this place all beds face the same way'. Someone oriented another way might say, 'Yeah, they are all faced that way, but maybe if we got an extension cord, there is actually something we can do' [to have hospital bed face Mecca]."
Randi Zlotnik Shaul, director of bioethics, SickKids, Toronto

"It's about reasonable accommodation and understanding. When people are ill, you're dealing with very vulnerable people, so empathy goes a long way."
Khadija Haffajee, spokeswoman, National Council of Canadian Muslims

"It's ugly, it's unfair. To ... have someone say you're not good enough [to deliver medical care] because of the colour of your skin is offensive."
Linda Wright, bioethicist, University Health Network, Toronto

Carefully seeking out methods whereby social and health-care workers can accommodate cultural variances in the immigrant community, to make newcomers or those of other faiths and heritage and cultural backgrounds feel 'at home' in Canada represents a social industry of a benevolent society, one that has no apparent wish to expect that new immigrants accommodate themselves to learning all that they can and should about the new society they are entering.

Canada is a country comprised of immigrant stock. West European at first, but then increasingly from countries other than Britain and France throughout Europe. Asians were brought to Canada for their labour potential, Africans gradually made immigration passage to Canada; all immigrants and refugees who arrived in Canada other than from France and Britain faced discrimination and cultural insensitivity on the part of those already settled considering themselves the dominant players.

But the immigrants from Eastern Europe, the people of colour, the visible minorities all managed to find places for themselves in the country, as they learned the social covenant, the culture, and immersed themselves in Canadian values, managing at the same time to honour their ethnic, religious and cultural heritage. In the new, culturally-sensitive Canada, government agencies at all levels, and church and social-work enterprises go out of their way to extend 'understanding' and 'assistance', while a general laxity of expectations that new Canadians and landed immigrants do their part is missing.

Catering to cultural preferences in some instances becomes a lesson in the practise of unethical and even immoral enablement, when those 'aids to understanding' contravene Canadian values and even laws. Dr. Hellman of SickKids discussed at a national pediatric and bioethics conference his reaction when a father from a patriarchal society asked doctors not discuss a child's medical condition with the mother outside the presence of the husband/father.

An examination room at Stollery Children's Hospital.
Bruce Edwards / Postmedia News   An examination room at Stollery Children's Hospital.

The issue of two First Nations girls with leukemia who decided withdrawal from standard life-saving chemotherapy was more consonant with their aboriginal traditions, enabling them to be treated with native remedies instead, and to attend a bogus health facility, leading to the death of one of the children came under discussion. In Halifax some hospitals convinced the fire marshal that smudging should be permitted in patients' rooms. Requiring smoke detectors to be shut off.

Media placeholder
Massage clinic treats First Nations girls for cancer -- CBC video still

In other instances dying patients can make requests that their bed be turned to face Mecca. St. Joseph's Health Centre in London, Ontario operates a clinic during Ramadan to aid the city's three thousand Muslims with diabetes. An observance of heightened privacy for female hospital patients is practised for Muslims, as though all female patients wouldn't appreciate that same level of privacy whereby they are advised in advance of staff bedside arrivals.

In 2013 reports emerged of doctors in Quebec issuing virginity certificates. The province's medical regulatory body responded that physicians must refuse to comply with such requests. The issue of patients asking for a physician of a particular gender or specific race another case in point, to which accommodation should never be given. When patients insist they will not accept treatment by a doctor or nurse of a certain race, the issue is one of human rights gone awry.

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