That heated moment between a Catholic bishop and a black female doctor at the health inquiry

This is a partial transcript of “Culture and Power,” the first episode of The Atlantic Magazine’s new podcast series from the Desmond inquiry, in partnership with The Atlantic Media Company.

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In her third testimony about the awarding of a health contract in Nova Scotia in 2005, Bev Neil detailed the heart-wrenching details of her relationship with the woman who would ultimately act as an administrator in her ministry. She highlighted the “harassment, physical abuse, and sexual misconduct”—that was also a part of the process to award an obstetrics and gynecology contract.

“Why are you talking to me?” Neil responded. “I don’t know why you’re here.”

It’s an immediate, unforgettable anecdote from a 2014 inquiry into Nova Scotia’s Health Department. But what troubles analysts, journalists, and activists is that it’s not an isolated example of the culture of abuse and discrimination alleged at the inquiry.

In fact, the thrust of Neil’s testimony relates not to women of the gender she represented, but to women of African Nova Scotian heritage. (Neil testified that she believed that at the very least a “tournament of cultures” was needed to govern the contract.)

“They found that using African-specific criteria for procedures and contracts in areas like obstetrics and gynecology and colonoscopy and cardiology were contrary to the [Public Health Act’s] requirements,” Neil told a Small Claims Court judge.

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