A Mississauga, Ont., man is stunned after witnessing and filming a woman make several demands for a “white doctor” who “doesn’t have brown teeth” and “speaks English” at his local walk-in clinic on Sunday.
Hitesh Bhardwaj recorded the incident while waiting for his own appointment at Rapid Access to Medical Specialists in Mississauga, Ont. He shared his video with CBC News.
Over the course of four minutes of video, a woman asks clinic staff several times for a “white doctor” to treat her son who she says has chest pains. When staff tell her that no such doctor is available, the woman gets angry and at one point says “being white in this country I should just shoot myself.”
“I saw a doctor that was not white that did not help my kid,” says the woman in the video. “I would like to see a white doctor. You’re telling me there isn’t one white doctor in this whole entire building?”
CBC Toronto tried to identify the woman to give her a chance to respond to the video, but was unsuccessful as of Monday evening.
We’ve obscured her face in the video to protect the identity of her son.
Bhardwaj says that he started filming the incident after a woman sitting next to him asked the agitated woman why the doctor had to be white.
“I couldn’t help but record the video,” said Bhardwaj. “This is bad, this is inappropriate and shouldn’t go unnoticed.”
Bhardwaj said, as an immigrant to Canada himself, he’s really proud to live here and “couldn’t believe” what he saw.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about it,” Bhardwaj said. “The whole episode kept on repeating in my head, I was very upset. You know I can’t even define the feeling.”
‘Everyday racism’ resurfacing
Cheryl Teelucksingh, a sociology professor at Ryerson University, sees the incident as an example of the kind of “everyday racism” that is “beginning to resurface” in Canada.
She said some people are pointing to the election of U.S. President Donald Trump making people feel more comfortable saying things they normally wouldn’t. But Teelucksingh thinks there’s a more important factor: perceived multiculturalism, or the assumption by some Canadians that racial minorities are already treated equally across the country.
“I think people are feeling that there’s a little bit more space now to question who’s in positions of power, who’s actually getting the jobs, those sorts of things,” said Teelucksingh.
In response, Teelucksingh believes, non-white professionals will probably revert to demonstrating their credentials by saying things like “look I went to school this long and did this sort of speciality.
“They’re legitimizing not just their place in their profession and workplace but their place within Canada. To say, look, I actually belong here and I have the right to practise my profession.”
Witnesses at clinic step up
In addition to Bhardwaj, other people in the waiting room also confronted the woman in the clinic. In the video several of them try to get the woman to go to the hospital, to which she responds, “I was there and they only have brown doctors.”
One female witness in the video, tells the woman that, “Your child clearly has more issues with you being his mother than him needing to see a doctor. You are extremely rude and racist.”
Later in the exchange the woman accuses the witnesses of “attacking me because I’m white.”
The fact that witnesses in the clinic stood up and spoke out against what the woman was saying is a good sign, Teelucksingh said.
“That sort of shows the broader societal values and that offers some hope,” Teelucksingh told CBC Toronto.
Police respond to ‘disturbance’ at clinic
Peel Regional Police said they were called to the clinic just after 12:30 p.m. on Sunday for a “disturbance.”
Const. Mark Fischer said a police officer spoke to “all involved” and afterward the woman’s son was treated by a doctor at the clinic.
No allegations of threats or assault were brought forward by anyone involved and the matter is closed, according to police.
In a statement, Rapid Access to Medical Specialists said it “is proud of the quality of medical care provided at this clinic,” but that “no one in the clinic has any comments for the media.”