An incident involving an Alberta Health Services (AHS) employee who sent out a text message with a racial slur has prompted the company to act accordingly, putting the employee on administrative leave.
Still, the incident won't be forgotten as members of Alberta's Blood Tribe said they are tired of this kind of behavior.
During the company's seminar for educators working on the Kainai First Nation (also known as Blood Tribe) in Alberta, Canada, an AHS official sent a text message to a seminar participant saying that she had been yelled at during the event.
When the participant replied, asking simply who had yelled at the official, the response read: “a rabid squaw.” The official then went on to say that the person in question was Ramona Big Head, a Kainai Board of Education (KBE) employee.
Commenting on the incident, Alberta's Health Minister Sarah Hoffman showed deep disappointment.
“I am angry and disappointed that a public employee would use such hateful and racist language. This is totally unacceptable and there will be consequences,” she said.
According to Annette Bruisedhead, KBE's deputy superintendent, the message was sent to a KBE employee, who went to their superiors to report the incident.
“It's evident that this text was accidentally sent to our KBE employee, not realizing the mistake,” she told reporters Thursday.
Promptly after the occurrence, the AHS official behind the text contacted KBE.
“She apologized for her behavior. However, we stand strong and united as this severe act of discrimination and racism will not be tolerated,” Bruisedhead said.
Also on Thursday, AHS CEO Dr. Verna Yiu issued an apology addressing the incident, saying that the organization takes this matter seriously.
“Any use of racist language is completely unacceptable and we have contacted the Kainai Nation to offer our most sincere apology to the nation and to the Kainai employee in question,” she said. “We have taken immediate action to investigate what happened. An employee has been put on administrative leave effective today.”
The victim in this incident, Big Head, serves as the reserve's middle school principal. According to her, the AHS employee who smeared her “[shares] the same dark, racist thoughts” as many others.
According to Hoffman, Kainai's Chief Roy Fox also showed concern about this incident.
“He shared how painful and damaging these kinds of comments are. We agreed to work together in addressing both this incident and the larger challenge of racism in our society,” she said.
He later addressed the issue himself, issuing a statement through a spokeswoman that read:
“This blatant act of racism has not just hurt Ramona but it has hurt our community. This is just another tangible example…of the blatant racism that we continue to experience in southern Alberta.”
It's clear that such acts appear to be common as so many in the community seem to share the same sentiment. With that in mind, it's comforting that AHS took action promptly after learning about this issue. Still, more should be done to prevent these kinds of insensitive incidents in the first place.