Carole Dawson, a residential school survivor who spent her life helping others overcome trauma and addictions by finding culturally appropriate health care for Indigenious people, has died from COVID-19.
Dawson was 75 and living in a long-term health care facility near Vancouver.
She died Sunday.
The announcement of her passing was made by the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, which said she will be “remembered as a kind-hearted leader who fought for Indigenous title and rights.”
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, the president of the union, called Dawson’s loss a devastating reminder that the pandemic is far from over and continues to be a threat to Indigenous health and welfare.
An elder of the Dzawada’enuxw Nation of Kingcome Inlet on B.C.’s Central Coast, she worked at the UBCIC from the organization’s early days as the health liaison officer and later as the family, children and health director.
Dawson was a survivor of St. Michael’s Residential School at Alert Bay on Cormorant Island, just off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island, and overcame trauma, violence, and loss to help and heal others as an addictions and sex abuse counsellor.
In a statement, the union said Dawson, played an integral role in improving both health care and child welfare for Indigenous families, and was “a champion in holding Canada accountable for the pervasive discrimination contributing to underfunded and inequitable Indigenous health-care systems.”
“Carole directly experienced the trauma of the residential school experience, and intimately understood the issues that had affected our people. And that’s why she was so effective in our work,” said Phillip.
“She was a walking, living example of all of those issues.”
Grand Chief Phillip, who earlier this month issued an appeal for a living kidney donor, called Dawson, “an Elder, a language speaker, an advocate, a mother, a healer, and a guide.”
“She was deeply loved and trusted by our people … She was a powerhouse of knowledge with respect to our community and our leadership,” he said.
With files from CBC News, The Canadian Press