I am a Caucasian doctor covering a maternity leave for a physician of Pakistani descent in Mississauga, Ontario.
She is born and raised in Canada, speaks English fully and has no accent.
She wears a hijab and other forms of dress consistent with her religion and culture. She clearly identifies with her ethnic background and religion.
She is Canadian.
I had no idea racism was so prevalent in Canada when I agreed to cover her maternity leave. It has shown itself in multiple ways in daily interactions–none so loud and overt as the video we have all seen about the woman yelling for a “white doctor” in a walk-in clinic in Mississauga, but present nonetheless.
Several of her patients, within minutes of meeting me, have asked me to become their permanent family physician since they “connect with me more”. They known nothing about me or my skills, and have had no opportunity to connect or establish a rapport. They simply know what I look like.
Then there are the many other patients who I have to work so much harder than expected to win over. They inherently don’t trust me, won’t listen to my opinion or advice and will automatically assume I am wrong. They are often rude. You may expect it’s because I’m not their regular doctor except there is a consistent theme as to who these patients may be.
The sad part is I am now able to predict which patients will love or hate me often based on their skin colour. Something I never expected or anticipated.
Many of the patients of South Asian descent over 50 years old seem to have decided prior to meeting me they don’t like me before I open my mouth. There have been a few who try to undermine me by asking the reception staff to call the doctor I’m covering for in an attempt to get what they want because they don’t trust me and others who have point blank said they won’t come back until their doctor is back.
There are only a few I have won over and now trust me with their health care.
I find both groups difficult but in light of the video, I think it’s also important to point out how rude and degrading many people are to those from other ethnicities period. There is a nurse in our clinic who is of African descent and is black. She faces significant attitude and rude behaviour from the predominantly South Asian descent patient population.
Honestly, I will think twice before I agree to cover another doctor of a different race.
It wasn’t something I considered when I took this locum position because I know I am not racist.
However, I hadn’t realized so many of the patients would have such a problem with me and be so blatantly rude.
My own family physician is a male of South Asian descent. I have moved away from him quite a distance, but I still always go back because he is great.
My Canada doesn’t discriminate.