The president-elect of the Ontario Medical Association said Wednesday that the video of a woman demanding a “white doctor” at a walk-in clinic reflects a larger issue in Canada.
“A lot of physicians who are visible minorities or have accents that suggest that they’re immigrants, they face this,” Dr. Nadia Alam, leader of the Ontario-based organization and a blogger for HuffPost Canada, told CBC Toronto.
Alam was reacting to a video of a woman at a clinic in Mississauga, Canada, who repeatedly asked the staff for a white doctor who was born in Canada, “speaks English” and “doesn’t have brown teeth.” The woman in the video became more angry when staff members told her that there was no physician available immediately who would meet her requirements.
When told to go to a hospital instead, the woman responded, “I’m not going there with all those Paki doctors.”
Bystanders eventually interrupted the woman and condemned her for her racist rant, and the woman claimed she was being targeted because she was white. The video, recorded and uploaded on Sunday, has been viewed more than 800,000 times.
A witness filmed the confrontation in Mississauga, one of the most diverse cities in Ontario, according to the mayor, where more than half of the residents are immigrants, with Indians making up 14.5 percent of the immigrant population and Pakistanis 8.3 percent.
Alam told CTV News that she was “horrified” by the footage. “It brought back memories of racism that I dealt with as a child, racism I dealt with as a medical student, as a resident and even as a practitioner.”
Alam told CBC Toronto that she had experienced similar incidents of racism while working in larger cities in Canada.
“It’s heartbreaking,” she told the news station. “You think that you’re a Canadian, that this is your country, this is where you belong. And when someone accuses you that way or treats you that way, you feel like an alien.”
As Alam pointed out to CTV News, physicians in Canada are allowed to refuse to provide treatment if they feel threatened by a patient. However, as a consequence, the patient may file a complaint against the physician with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, putting the physician at risk of losing their license.
Alam also noted that she was taught to deal with hostile patients only in general ― and not specifically how to handle racist patients.
“This is a bigger issue,” she told CBC Toronto. “We need to deal with it not just as the medical community, but on a broader scale as a community in Ontario.