AMC Disappointed in Exclusion from Discussions on Provincial and Federal Health Matters
February 7, 2023
Treaty One Territory, Manitoba
Treaty One Territory, Manitoba – The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) expresses disappointment in being excluded, yet again, from significant discussions that relate to First Nation Health and Health Legislation. Today. February 7, 2023, Canada’s 13 provincial and territorial premiers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet to discuss a long-term healthcare funding deal. As of yet, they have not invited First Nations to be a part of these vital conversations.
This year, Canada is expected to transfer almost $88 billion to the provinces and territories for health, education, social supports, and equalization. The Canada Health Transfer (CHT), in particular, is $45.2 billion, or 51 per cent of that. The federal government is also expected to propose a decade-long, $100 billion plan to fund and reform the health-care system. If true, the AMC finds it disparaging, considering federal funding for First Nations is allocated on a year-to-year basis with the odd exception if they meet a “good governance” criterion.
“For decades, First Nations have fought for change. When we saw the impact of residential and day schools, First Nations knew they had to take control over education,” said Grand Chief Cathy Merrick. “So, our leadership negotiated for on-reserve education infrastructure and created the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre (MFNERC) to help First Nations develop culturally appropriate curricula for our children and youth. First Nations created the University College of the North (UCN), so our people could attend post-secondary. We see firsthand how this current healthcare system is failing our people despite the fact we have a Treaty right to health. First Nations in Manitoba rank among the lowest in health and wellness (according to Canada’s own Community Wellness Indicators) and have the highest First Nations population in the country, so it only makes sense that we should be at the table to create transformative systems and funding changes. First Nations have demonstrated time and time again that we are capable of taking the lead on the development of a health care model, one that incorporates both traditional and western medicine to help heal our people.”
Last week, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs met in a Special Chiefs Assembly on Health Legislation and passed important resolutions on health care for First Nations in Manitoba. The resolutions highlighted that the health of First Nations in Manitoba is in a deplorable state. Compared to non-First Nations people, First Nations in Manitoba experience substantially greater mortality and morbidity rates and poorer self-rated health, including a lower life expectancy for First Nations in Manitoba and higher rates of infectious and life-threatening diseases. Overcrowding, lack of clean drinking water, deprivation of traditional diet, disproportionate educational failure, unemployment, and reliance on income assistance are continuing social factors that perpetuate ill health in First Nations.
Although all Canadians have access to universal health care, the imposed colonial policies through Indigenous Service Canada (ISC) are punitive and create barriers to care for First Nations citizens. These policies violate First Nations’ Treaty Right to Health. Health care is routinely inaccessible, unavailable, underfunded, and substandard. Despite health care dollars being transferred to governments, First Nations citizens do not get the opportunity to utilize them fully. ISC has little to no accountability for the poor delivery of health care.
The Chiefs-in-Assembly directed the AMC to lead the future coordination regarding the Government of Canada’s co-development of a distinctions-based Indigenous health legislation process, which means participating in all discussions on Health that will affect First Nations. First Nations leaders know what is best for First Nations. It is imperative not only to our current First Nation citizens but future generations that we highlight the importance of traditional holistic healing, family wellness, clean drinking water, adequate housing, access to traditional lands for economic development and dietary needs, higher employment, and education rates as essential factors to First Nation health.
“Given the dire health professional staffing shortages across all First Nations in Manitoba, we must take the lead on educating and training our young people,” said Grand Chief Cathy Merrick. “We must work with Canada to identify the necessary infrastructure so First Nations can care for our citizens. The fact that First Nations leadership from Manitoba are not at the table today demonstrates that both Canada and Manitoba are not serious about Reconciliation and, quite frankly, are not that concerned about the promises made within the nation-to-nation agreements. The Federal government is also leading the Co-Development of Distinction-Based Indigenous Health Legislation to be drafted this spring. Are we expected not to be a part of that as well?”
Having First Nation leadership at the table to provide meaningful input and guidance on improving the health and wellness of First Nations citizens would provide transparency and partnership in moving forward. Instead, this omission continues to strip away First Nations’ rights to self-determination and sovereignty for health.
For more information, please contact:
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs
About the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs
The AMC was formed in 1988 by the Chiefs in Manitoba to advocate on issues that commonly affect First Nations in Manitoba. AMC is an authorized representative of 62 of the 63 First Nations in Manitoba with a total of more than 151,000 First Nation citizens in the province, accounting for approximately 12 percent of the provincial population. AMC represents a diversity of Anishinaabe (Ojibway), Nehetho / Ininew (Cree), Anishininew (Ojibwe-Cree), Denesuline (Dene) and Dakota Oyate (Dakota) people.