On March 26, 2024, the Indigenous Health Professions Program (IHPP) and the Department of Family Medicine invited McGill’s 2024 Indigenous Studies and Community Engagement Initiative (ISCEI) Writer in Residence, Billy-Ray Belcourt, from the Driftpile Cree Nation in northern Alberta, to share stories and perspectives on issues surrounding healthcare. The collaborative event was held in-person at the Department of Family Medicine and moderated by Alex McComber, Kanien’keha:ka, Assistant Professor at the Department of Family Medicine, and Sarah Konwahahawi Rourke, Kanien’kehá:ka, Director at the IHPP.

The event opened with elder Amelia Tekwatonti McGregor, Kanien’keha: ka (People of the Flint, Mohawk), Bear Clan from Kahnawake Territory, who shared traditional protocol, offering Ohenton Kariwatehkwen/ The Words That Come Before All Else in the Mohawk language. Belcourt then shared some of the difficult experiences he has encountered as an Indigenous man with the healthcare system. He courageously explained the story of how he was gaslighted and ignored by healthcare professionals when he had gallstones (cholelithiasis) during an emergency hospital visit. This experience was just the tip of the iceberg and we learned that he has had to confront institutional racism, both in Canada and in Europe, his entire life. He added that he even opts for virtual health appointments sometimes as he has received better care and less racism over the phone compared to in-person appointments.

Belcourt also shared how he has poured his traumatic experiences into creative writing for advocacy. As a Rhodes Scholar, Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Creative Writing, and Canada Research Chair in Queer Indigenous Cultural Production, he is an accomplished writer, having authored several award-winning books exploring topics such as decolonial love, grief, and intimacy. He concluded the event with a reading from his latest book “A Minor Chorus” which is about a queer Indigenous student who decides to pause his PhD program to write a novel about his reservation and community.

The event was followed by a Q&A from the audience as well as a reception at the Department of Family Medicine’s Indigenous space on the second floor.

To read more about Billy-Ray Belcourt, please find here an interview piece from McGill’s The Reporter: https://reporter.mcgill.ca/billy-ray-belcourt-is-mcgills-2024-mellon-iscei-writer-in-residence/

Photos from the event:

From left to right: Brittany Jock, Sarah Konwahahawi Rourke, Alex McComber and Richard Budgell.
From left to right: Richard Budgell, Sarah Konwahahawi Rourke, Amelia Tekwatonti McGregor and Alex McComber.
From left to right: Amelia Tekwatonti McGregor, Billy-Ray Belcourt and Sarah Konwahahawi Rourke.
From left to right: Kaye-Anne Bunting, Sarah Konwahahawi Rourke and Joelle Majeau.