Health (18-24): Current Problems

MB


May 12, 2020


COVID-19

“Colonialism of the Curve: Indigenous Communities and Bad Covid Data”.

Yellowhead Institute – release of Policy Brief: “Colonialism of the Curve: Indigenous Communities and Bad Covid Data”.
There is wide discrepancy on COVID-19 related health data from Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) and provincial health authorities:

  • There is no agency or organization in Canada reliably recording and releasing Covid-19 data that indicates whether or not a person is Indigenous.
  • The division of powers between provincial and federal government has gradually displaced and disrupted Indigenous governance over time.
  • ISC only gathers on-reserve data which eliminates over 50% of the Indigenous population who live off-reserve
  • Canadian federalism was established to serve Canadians and consequently maintains discrimination and sub-standard service delivery in on-reserve communities.
  • This jurisdictional fight between provinces and the federal government, where both claim the other is responsible for services, more often than not leaves Indigenous people without any services.

Through publicly available data—media reports, Band Council updates to members, local reports and obituaries—a team of researchers supported by Yellowhead has compiled and verified many more cases.

  • ISC: COVID-19 cases = 175; Deaths = 2
  • Yellowhead: COVID-19 cases = 465; Deaths = 7

The same gaps in data collection exist in child welfare and were a primary reason why the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls were unable to definitively identify the number of Indigenous women who have been murdered or are missing. Publicly accessible data makes it easier for Indigenous people to seek accountability from leaders, and to independently evaluate and measure the efficacy of interventions by all levels of government, including our own Indigenous leadership. In fact, this is probably one of the reasons why we don’t have it.


December 9, 2020


Health Care Reform

“Our Children, Our Future: Knowledge Keeper Recommendations”

“Our Children, Our Future: The Health and Well-being of First Nations Children in Manitoba” released by Manitoba Centre for Health Policy (MCHP) looks at the health and well-being of registered First Nations children living on-reserve and off-reserve in Manitoba. The purpose of this report is to provide a sound baseline measure of how First Nations children in Manitoba are doing in order to determine if the children’s lives are improving as a result of these calls to action.

Summary of Results: (Indigenous vs Non-Indigenous)

  • Teen Pregnancy (per 1000): 107 vs 18 (6 x greater)
  • Teen Births (per 1000): 87 vs 11 (8x greater)
  • Breastfeeding (per 100): 61 vs 90 (33% less)
  • Diabetes (per 100K): 875 vs 43 (20 x greater)
  • Dental Surgeries (per 1000) 32 vs 1 (32 x greater)

These findings clearly show that an enormous amount of work is required in virtually every area – health, social, education and justice – to improve First Nations children’s lives. There is an urgent need for equitable access to equitable services, and the nature of these services should be self-determined, planned and implemented by First Nations people. An important aspect that should be included in this work is a clearer understanding and articulation of the traditional knowledges, languages and values that were stripped from so many First Nations by colonialist practices and policies. First Nations Peoples hold these cultural knowledges and values in their memory and within themselves. Collectively, as First Nations and as Manitobans, we should revive them as we begin to address gaps in the key areas this report describes and work to improve First Nations children’s health, education and social outcomes.

The data presented in this report can inform and guide us in changing our approach to First Nations programming, policies and decision-making. The profound hope of the research team is that this report will promote equity in funding for First Nations children and that Indigenous and non-Indigenous people can work in a more collaborative and unified way to address the gaps. In so doing, and in the true tradition of honoring First Nations ways of doing, knowing and being, we strive to be “wholistic” in our approaches to clear the path for First Nations children to live and thrive in our province.

Knowledge Keeper recommendations: It is with this in mind we make these declarations:

  • Urgent action is needed in the development of a unified and seamless health care system to ensure our children have equitable access to all provincially funded health and social services.
  • Urgent action is needed to eliminate discrimination and racism at all levels of the health care system, beginning with health care providers and extending to policies that place First Nations people at an unfair advantage.
  • Urgent action is needed in the educational system that allows for the provision of equitable funding.
  • Urgent action is needed to fund and support land-based or culturally appropriate educational models.
  • Urgent action is needed in the creation of fair and culturally appropriate assessment tools in the educational system.
  • Urgent action is needed to restore our languages by the wide implementation of First Nations language programs in all schools and support for full language emersion in our schools on reserve.
  • Urgent action needed for supports and services that are planned by and put in place by First Nations people and must be funded at the same level as services for other Canadian children in the child welfare system.
  • Urgent action is needed to completely overhaul the child welfare system and discontinue the colonial practice of child removal and any incentives that support this practice.
  • Urgent action is needed to acknowledge existing Knowledge Keepers grandmother’s and grandfather’s circles so that they have meaningful and legitimate authority to oversee and ensure that all proceeding urgent calls for action are implemented.

http://mchp-appserv.cpe.umanitoba.ca/reference/FNKids_Report_Web.pdf


September 13, 2020


COVID-19

Access to COVID-19 Data

Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) – MMF filed a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission against the Government of Manitoba, the Honourable Cameron Friesen – Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living – and Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s Chief Provincial Public Health Officer. The complaint states that the Manitoba Métis Community has been subject to discrimination and systemic discrimination by the Manitoba Government as well as Manitoba’s lead health official throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Dr. Roussin said in the media months ago that the province was prepared to engage with the Manitoba Métis on a data sharing agreement. We sent letters intended to initiate the discussions necessary to reach an agreement with Manitoba, but never received a positive response.” The MMF notes that it was engaged with Manitoba in early April but was told by the province that self-identification was sufficient evidence of someone being Métis. Discussions with the province came to a halt after we requested that Métis Citizens be verified by the MMF”.

“Sharing incorrect data created by those who falsely identify as Métis comes with a number of problems. We want to ensure that our resources are being used in an effective way that benefits the Métis Nation and indeed all Manitobans.” The MMF sent several letters between the months of April and August requesting Manitoba engage in a data sharing agreement whereby the MMF can confirm the identity of those who self-identify as Métis, but never received a formal response.

“Because of the lack of a data sharing agreement, a Métis Nation Citizen could get sick and we have no way of being notified,” said MMF Minister of Health Frances Chartrand. “We have been forced to rely on word of mouth from the Manitoba Métis Community to tell us that a Métis Citizen has contracted COVID-19 and is in need of our support. Any data analyzed by the province using false identifications of Métis would not be useful.”


March 31, 2018


Ongoing Health Crisis

Access to Health Services: Virgo Report

Release of the Virgo Final Report: “Improving Access and Coordination of Mental Health and Addiction Services: A Provincial Strategy for all Manitobans” specifically emphasizes the discovery made during the system review that for almost every service encountered, the largest percentage of people being served were of Indigenous background.

The report acknowledges the “history of colonization and historical trauma, and ongoing challenges with respect to social determinants of health. More importantly, we believe the overall system of services will not improve significantly in terms of access or coordination without a concerted and sustained effort to better meet the needs of the province’s Indigenous people.

Of the many issues brought forward unique to Indigenous people, two were particularly salient:

  • the need for more culturally informed services, including land-based programs, and support for those community members whose customary language is their own native language and who have trouble understanding words and concepts expressed in English.
  • Last, the “jurisdictional issue”— a fundamental challenge to be addressed going forward as it underlies significant issues related to access and coordination. This was one of the top priorities identified in the validation events.

Other specific issues identified previously with respect to the preceding Strategic Priorities, including,

  • the need for more local, and more flexible, services, including longer term treatment and pre-and post-treatment supports;
  • the need for better integration of SUA and MH (substance use/addiction and mental health problems and illnesses) services;
  • the need to fill specific gaps for youth and women; and
  • a critical need for Withdrawal Management Services (WMS), transitional stabilization to support access to treatment, housing, transportation and crisis services, including post-crisis healing opportunities.

https://www.gov.mb.ca/health/mha/docs/mha_strategic_plan.pdf


September 29, 2020


Ongoing Health Crisis

Beyond Hunger – The Hidden Impacts of Food Insecurity in Canada”

Community Food Centres (CFC) – Release of “Beyond Hunger – The Hidden Impacts of Food Insecurity in Canada”. Even before COVID-19, food insecurity affected nearly 4.5 million Canadians. In the first two months of the pandemic, that number grew by 39 per cent. Food insecurity now affects one in seven people, disproportionately impacting low-income and Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) communities. “Beyond Hunger illustrates that food insecurity is about equity and income,” says Saul. “We urgently need a national solution that goes beyond emergency food assistance. We need a solution founded in solid policy that addresses inadequate social programs, systemic racism and precarious employment.”

Why Food Insecurity happens in Canada:

  • People are stuck in low wage and precarious jobs
  • Canadians are struggling with a rising cost of living
  • Colonialism and systemic racism
  • Low social assistance rates trap people in poverty
  • More and more people are living alone
  • Food in the North is unaffordable

Findings:

  • 81% say it takes a toll on their physical health
  • 79% say it impacts their mental health
  • 57% say it is harder to find and keep a good job
  • 53% say it is a barrier to finding meaning in life
  • 58% say it limits their ability to take part in social activities
  • 46% say it limits their ability to celebrate their culture

We believe government policy is necessary to address the real cause of food insecurity. Policy is what will increase incomes and make life more affordable — for everyone. Here are four policy changes for the federal government to act on:

  1. Invest in income supports for low income Canadians
    • Increase income benefits for single adults who suffer disproportionately from food insecurity by:
      • Ensuring low-wage workers have equal access to Employment Insurance
      • Improving existing tax benefits so they provide more income by making them refundable
      • Creating a tax credit specifically for working-age adults
    • Ensure low-income Canadians, especially First Nations living on reserve, have better access to tax filing supports and benefit services
  2. Make life more affordable for Canadians
    • Speed up the implementation of the Canada Housing Benefit, which supports people who can’t afford their housing
    • Increase federal funding for early learning and child care
    • Move forward with a universal public pharmacare program
  3. Set targets and improve reporting on food security
    • Set targets to reduce food insecurity
    • Ensure Statistics Canada reports on food insecurity annually and collects better race-based data
  4. Ensure progress on food insecurity is achieved equitably
    • In partnership with Northern leadership, continue to reform Nutrition North Canada
    • In partnership with Indigenous leadership, create an Indigenous food sovereignty fund
    • In partnership with Black communities, create a fund to decrease food insecurity for Black Canadians
    • Apply a racial equity lens to all poverty and food-security policies

https://cfccanada.ca/getmedia/57f5f963-af88-4a86-bda9-b98c21910b28/FINAL-BH-PDF-EN.aspx?_ga=2.197064812.159489303.1604624936-1692352870.1604624936


April 19, 2021


Health Care Reform

Bill 56 “The Smoking Act”

CBC – The Canadian Cancer Society – which actively campaigns to discourage smoking — has written to the province to withdraw its support of Bill 56 until First Nations are properly consulted. “While we are committed to reducing rates of lung cancer, we cannot do so in the absence of a consultative process that honours First Nations’ right to self-government,” Andrea Seale, Canadian Cancer Society CEO, said in a statement to CBC News.


April 14, 2021


Health Care Reform

Bill 56 “The Smoking Act”

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs – The Manitoba government scheduled a 30-minute meeting at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon “the weekend before Bill 56 is going to Standing Committee prior to third and final reading…we did not want Manitoba to use that meeting as ‘checking a box’ to say that they had consulted First Nations”.


March 5, 2021


Health Care Reform

Bill 56 “The Smoking Act”

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs – The AMC stands in condemnation of the Province’s unjustified intrusion on the jurisdiction of First Nations through the tabling of Bill 56. Bill 56 removes section 9.4 of The Smoking and Vapour Products Control Amendment Act (the “Smoking Act”), which “exempts lands reserved for Indians and federal lands” from the application of the Smoking Act. The tabling of Bill 56 follows the Province’s underhanded attempt in July 2020 to ban smoking in VLT areas on First Nations reserves under COVID-19 emergency orders. In response to that attempt, AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas stated, “it is unacceptable and disheartening that the Pallister government and the Province would attempt to use the current COVID-19 health crisis to unilaterally usurp First Nations autonomy under the guise of a public health order.” In response to the COVID-19 emergency order, Brokenhead Ojibway Nation filed a judicial review against Manitoba and the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation.

Bill 56 is the Province proceeding with further steps to usurp First Nations jurisdiction. The Province failed to consult with any First Nations and is seen as a further attempt by the Province to control and limit constitutionally recognized and protected rights of First Nations. AMC and its members will continue to bring jurisdictional challenges through the court systems and fight as long as it takes for First Nations to receive autonomy. The Premier continues to refuse all First Nations attempts to resolve jurisdictional conflicts and appears content to continue his government’s thinly veiled practices of systemic racism,” said Grand Chief Dumas.

“Any attempt by the Province to change the Smoking Act regarding First Nations reserves in Manitoba is illegitimate and unconstitutional. This issue goes far beyond smoking bans as it holds ill-considered constitutional ramifications and sets negative precedence of provinces overstepping and interfering with constitutionally recognized and protected rights of First Nations


November 22, 2018


Systemic Racism

Call for national investigation into forced sterilizations

Senator Murray Sinclair, former Chair of the TRC, says Canada needs a national investigation to find out how common coerced sterilizations are among Indigenous women and how they’ve been allowed to continue for so long.
http://nationtalk.ca/story/usw-joint-statement-calling-on-canada-to-end-sterilization-without-consent


September 21, 2017


Health Care Reform

Canada Health Act flaws

Healthy Debates – “Indigenous health services often hampered by legislative confusion“. The federal and provincial governments negotiate health transfers based on the Canada Health Act, which specifies the conditions and criteria required of provincial health insurance programs. It doesn’t mention First Nations and Inuit peoples, Métis and non-status or off-reserve Indigenous peoples who are covered by the Indian Act.

This lack of clarity – and lack of policies for providing Indigenous health services – has historically been used by both the federal government and provinces to narrowly define their responsibilities toward Indigenous health. It’s created bureaucratic delays that leave Indigenous peoples waiting for care or medications readily available to non-Indigenous Canadians. And it’s created gaps in care between Indigenous and non-status and First Nations people living off-reserve.

“The move to a new fiscal relationship is significant,” Grand Chief Doug Kelly, chair of the First Nations Health Authority of BC says. Leaving Indigenous people out of health care discussions and program design hasn’t worked. Instead, he says, First Nations communities should be empowered to identify their priorities and develop a plan. Once costs are attached, communities would negotiate with the government for transfer payments. Groups like the First Nations Health Managers Association that Marion Crowe, Executive Director represents, have been working to prepare communities for the eventual transfer of responsibility, focusing on developing health human resource and health administrative capacity within First Nations communities.


November 2, 2020


Health Care Reform

Canada’s Constitution embeds discrimination

Policy Options – Canada’s history of colonization has laid the foundation for the implementation of racist health policy and the delivery of culturally unsafe health care, resulting in health disparities that are disproportionately experienced by Indigenous Peoples. Since the establishment of the Indian Act in 1867, Canada’s Constitution has continued to support and maintain discriminatory and inequitable practices and policies that negatively impact the health of Indigenous Peoples. The result is that Canada’s current health-care model is in and of itself a determinant of ill health for Indigenous Peoples. The authors recommend specific policy changes to address these issues:

  • Lack of availability and accessibility to culturally safe health care for Indigenous people in Canada
  • Canada’s long history of implementing racist and sexist policies oppress Indigenous Peoples and place them in inequitable spaces.
  • Indigenous women routinely experience systemic racism, institutional racism, a lack of cultural safety and sexism

Recommendations to make substantial changes to its health policies and legislations:

  • a collaborative approach that engages Indigenous Peoples and their communities in generating culturally safe and relevant health policies.
  • adequate distinctions-based programming and reporting mechanisms,
  • additional support of Indigenous-led research,
  • recruitment of Indigenous health-care personnel and
  • the integration of traditional healing practices in Canada’s health care model.
  • the creation of an ombudsman specific to Indigenous health should be established at the national, regional and local levels to ensure Indigenous Peoples feel safe to report inequities and experiences of mistreatment.

The TRC has advocated for cultural safety training and an increase in Indigenous health professionals in Canada’s health-care system, further supporting our health policy recommendations.Many of the health disparities experienced by Indigenous Peoples correlate to social, economic and political factors, suggesting that the foundation of Canada’s systems and thus its health care are inherently discriminatory.

https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/november-2020/excising-racism-from-health-care-requires-indigenous-collaboration/


September 15, 2017


Systemic Racism

Death of Brian Sinclair

CBC – Brian Sinclair was killed by racism on Sept. 21, 2008. He was ignored for 34 hours, despite his need for urgent medical care, because medical professionals made negative assumptions about him based solely on his appearance. Anti-Indigenous bias is an endemic problem in Canadian health care:

  • The hospital authority denied that stereotyping had anything to do with Mr. Sinclair’s death.
  • The government of Manitoba refused to hold a public inquiry.
  • The inquest into Mr. Sinclair’s death sidelined issues of race and social marginalization.
  • Regulatory bodies have been slow to implement any changes, if at all, and
  • no one has been held accountable for professional misconduct or criminal neglect.

The findings of the Manitoba Ombudsman rely on the government’s health and justice departments “appraising their own progress.”

http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/5782400/Brian-Sinclair-Final-Report-En.pdf.

The Brian Sinclair Working group was formed to examine the role of racism in the death of Brian Sinclair and in the inquest that followed, in order to highlight ongoing structural and systemic anti-Indigenous racism in our contemporary health and legal systems. The Sinclair family and the Sinclair Working Group have called for a public inquiry to explore the underlying systemic racism in the delivery of Health services to Indigenous populations. The Working Group aims to release a final report in 2018. The interim report “Ignored to Death” was issued Sept. 2017


January 28, 2021


Systemic Racism

Emergency Meeting on Indigenous Health

Assembly of First Nations – AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde reiterated recommendations and called for urgency in addressing systemic racism in Canada’s health care systems at a two-day virtual meeting with federal, provincial and territorial ministers and Metis and Inuit leaders that ended today. The meeting, convened by Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and Health Minister Patty Hajdu, gathered Indigenous leaders and health system experts to discuss short and long-term strategies to eliminate anti-Indigenous racism in Canada’s health care systems.

It is the second of its kind since the death of Joyce Echaquan in hospital September 2020. “There seems to be a shared sense of responsibility by all parties to addressing racism in the health care system, but until First Nations and Indigenous peoples are treated with the respect, quality of care and attention they deserve, meetings of this nature will not have the impact that’s required,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “Implementation of recommendations and reporting on their progress and outcomes will be essential


October 16, 2020


Systemic Racism

Emergency Meeting on Indigenous Health

Emergency meeting on racism in Canada’s healthcare system.

AFN recommendations to all levels of government:

  • Work directly with First Nations to ensure that Indigenous Peoples feel safe accessing health care services.
  • Quebec needs to work with First Nations to fully implement the Viens Commission Report’s recommendations.
  • Canada must conduct an immediate review of the Canada Health Transfers and the Canada Health Act, to ensure quality health care is being provided to Indigenous Peoples.
  • The federal, provincial, and territorial governments must listen to Indigenous Peoples on the need for a healthcare Ombudsperson.
  • The Provinces and Territories must work with educational institutions to ensure a more expansive curriculum for all health care providers

January 15, 2021


COVID-19

Excluding Métis from COVID-19 Task Force

Winnipeg Free Press – Government has left the Métis out of its COVID-19 vaccine task force and plans no vaccination clinics targeted to them. That’s despite Premier Brian Pallister having said he’s committed to including Métis people in the vaccine rollout, guided by reconciliation. Emails obtained by the Free Press show provincial officials have asked the Manitoba Metis Federation to help combat vaccine hesitancy, and to possibly help Métis people travel to vaccination super sites in cities. Yet there is still no invitation to any group that decides the order of precedence for vaccines, despite First Nations being appointed to that task force on Dec. 18 and receiving doses a week ago.

“The voices of Métis people are being heard through the process,” the premier said. That rings hollow to Chartrand, who says towns that have large Métis populations have medical needs similar to reserves, and should be part of the initial rollout. He feels the Pallister government is punishing the federation over a protracted dispute over a Hydro payout and “playing political games at a time when lives are at risk.” Since the pandemic stared, Chartrand has been in conflict with the province over a data-sharing pact similar to ones with First Nations and Inuit officials.


July 14, 2016


Ongoing Health Crisis

Fire protection on reserves

NationTalk – There is no national fire protection code that mandates fire safety standards or enforcement on reserves. All other jurisdictions in Canada including provinces, territories, and other federal jurisdictions (such as military bases, airports, and seaports) have established building and fire codes. The Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada (AFAC), NIFSC’s parent organization, supports the development of a national First Nations Fire Protection Act and is willing to work with First Nations leadership as a technical resource.

In the absence of legislation act or regulations, AFAC and the NIFSC are addressing identified gaps to improve fire safety in Indigenous communities by supporting them in creating fire safety standards, doing fire protection and response research, and establishing fire safety bylaws and building standards. Indigenous Peoples across Canada are over 5 times more likely to die in a fire compared to the rest of the population. That number increases to over 10 times for First Nations people living on reserve. Inuit are over 17 times more likely to die in a fire than non-Indigenous people. Rates among Métis were higher than non-Indigenous estimates (2.1), but these rates were not significantly different.

Fire-related injuries resulting in hospitalization are also disproportionate to Indigenous Peoples. First Nations people are over 4 times more likely, Métis are over 1.5 times more likely, and Inuit are over 5 times more likely than non-Indigenous people to be hospitalized due to fire-related injuries.

What has led to this situation?

Many social determinants contribute to the higher fire-related mortality among Indigenous Peoples. These include poverty, inadequate housing conditions, housing without smoke alarms, and more.

Core capital funding provided by Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), which includes funding for fire protection, is flexible. This means community leadership can use designated fire protection funds if the community has more immediate or pressing needs (e.g., a school needing repairs or social housing maintenance). Without a fire protection mandate or regulatory maintenance of fire protection standards for Indigenous communities, fire services and fire and life safety can be deprioritized or forgotten.
https://nationtalk.ca/story/new-study-shows-that-indigenous-peoples-across-canada-are-between-5-and-17-times-more-likely-to-die-in-a-fire-compared-to-the-rest-of-the-population

How the NIFC Project will help Indigenous Communities

  • Offer culturally sensitive and relevant fire and life safety training and education programs that are created for and delivered by Indigenous Peoples. These services are available to First Nations populations living on reserve, leadership, and individuals working or volunteering in emergency services.
  • Launched close to 80 programs and services that provide training and ongoing support to more than 600 First Nations communities in Canada. Programs include:
    • education, support, and training in the areas of community fire safety, community governance support, community infrastructure and engineering support, fire department management, fire investigation services, and fire department operations.
    • Training, education programs and services being offered by the NIFSC Project have not previously been available to First Nations communities, whereas they have been available in most other communities in Canada
  • improve fire-related mortality and morbidity amongst Indigenous Peoples is through more accurate data collection. The creation of the National Incident Reporting System (NIRS) will, over time, provide the data regarding fire incidents in Indigenous communities that has been missing.

November 2, 2020


COVID-19

First Nations hardest hit by COVID-19, appeal for increased funding

Southern Chiefs Organization – is making an urgent appeal to all levels of government to free up increased funding and resources to contain COVID-19 in First Nations where the test positivity rate among First Nations is 11% vs the provincial average of 8.6%. Manitoba has the worst case count per capita in Canada including daily outbreaks in hospitals, personal care homes, jails, and remote communities. “The provincial government had six months to prepare for this second wave of the virus,” added Grand Chief Daniels. “Instead of being adequately prepared, we are now bearing witness to the tragic loss of life and system collapse after years of so-called reorganization and red tape reduction.”

Today, the province announced that it will finally reactivate its incident command structure, to help “provide clear direction and ensure co-ordinated efforts are put in place to address the situation.” This is another example of how the Manitoba government is failing to keep First Nations and all Manitobans safe. The command structure was deactivated months ago, and it has taken the province until now to reactivate it, despite the alarming increases in cases which began many weeks ago.

As of October 31, 2020, 26 First Nation communities across Canada have reported two or more active cases with 17 of them located in Manitoba. There were 516 active cases in the province among First Nation people, 171 of them on reserve “If the province’s system is on the verge of collapse, imagine what that could mean for First Nation’s health care resources,” remarked Grand Chief Daniels. “Thanks to centuries of colonization, we have been dealing with an infrastructure backlog for generations. Add to that the challenges of a global pandemic and you have a recipe for disaster.”

Along with a call for improved transparency, action and accountability from the province, SCO is calling on the federal government to fast track the release of $200 million in recently announced funding to provide support to First Nations. That money will be immediately used to help build critical infrastructure including badly needed isolation units as well as upgrades for health, social, and educational facilities.


October 21, 2020


Ongoing Health Crisis

Food Insecurity

The Narwhal – Human Rights Watch released “My fear is Losing Everything: Climate Crisis and First Nations’ Right to Food” in Canada. The report details how longer and more intense forest fire seasons, permafrost degradation, volatile weather patterns and increased levels of precipitation are all affecting wildlife habitat and, in turn, harvesting efforts. The report also outlines how there are more hunting and foraging risks due to warming temperatures. For instance, it’s harder — and sometimes impossible — to hunt caribou because the ice and permafrost they travel on isn’t stable enough for hunters.

“Climate change threatens to decimate these food systems, risking further serious consequences for livelihoods and health,” the report states. The report also found that climate change is driving up prices for less-nutritious, store-bought alternatives that need to be brought in from the south. This is in part due to the fact that roads constructed from snow and ice are becoming less reliable because of warmer winters, meaning food needs to be flown in, which is far more expensive. This compounds the risk of food poverty for First Nations people, the report states.

Canada gets a failing grade on mitigating the effects of climate change, according to the report. The country is among the top 10 emitters of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, with per capita emissions upward of four times higher than the global average, the report states, noting that between 1990 and 2017, emissions increased by roughly 19 per cent, mainly due to mining and oil and gas production. Canada is warming roughly twice as fast as the global average; in the North, it’s even worse, with temperatures rising three times as quick.

The report also found that climate change is driving up prices for less-nutritious, store-bought alternatives that need to be brought in from the south. This is in part due to the fact that roads constructed from snow and ice are becoming less reliable because of warmer winters, meaning food needs to be flown in, which is far more expensive. This compounds the risk of food poverty for First Nations people, the report states.

Canada gets a failing grade on mitigating the effects of climate change, according to the report. The country is among the top 10 emitters of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, with per capita emissions upward of four times higher than the global average, the report states, noting that between 1990 and 2017, emissions increased by roughly 19 per cent, mainly due to mining and oil and gas production. Canada is warming roughly twice as fast as the global average; in the North, it’s even worse, with temperatures rising three times as quick.

Human Rights Watch lays out several recommendations for the federal government, including that:

  • Canada deem the right to food a basic human right
  • strengthen its climate change policies to reduce emissions
  • improve climate adaptation measures in First Nations and
  • support a transition toward renewable energy, including for First Nations, in the COVID-19 stimulus package

https://thenarwhal.ca/climate-change-indigenous-food-insecurity-report/


December 10, 2018


Systemic Racism

Forced Sterilizations

72 organizations endorse the joint statement from Amnesty International Canada, the Native Women’s Association of Canada, and Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, calling for government action to #DefendConsent and end #ForcedSterilization of Indigenous women in Canada

Canadian Press – All the women interviewed felt that the health system had not served their needs, and they had felt powerless to do anything about it. Aboriginal women who have had such an experience that prevents them from accessing health care are aware that they are higher risk for negative consequences of health problems that are preventable or treatable if diagnosed early; they still cannot get past their distrust. In its submission to the UN committee, the law firm said there has been no effort at a comprehensive review to understand the scale of the problem or the conditions that make forced sterilizations possible.


March 17, 2020


COVID-19

H1N1 and Systemic Racism

Globe and Mail – Despite accounting for just under 5 per cent of the Canadian population, Indigenous people were 25 per cent of those admitted to ICUs during the first wave of H1N1. First Nations children were 21 per cent of the paediatric patients admitted to ICUs during both waves. This led to sad and tragic outcomes. Indigenous peoples represented 17.6 per cent of the reported deaths in the first wave and 8.9 per cent of reported deaths in the second.These figures likely reflect the lack of timely interventions and diagnoses that plague communities who depend on understaffed nursing stations for their health-care needs, as well as jurisdictional squabbling about roles and responsibilities.

John Borrows is Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law at the University of Victoria Law School writing with Constance MacIntosh, Viscount Bennett Professor of Law at Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University


September 17, 2019


Health Care Reform

Health Care Data: 2015-17 vs 2002

University of Manitoba Today – Joint study by the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba (FNHSSM) and the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy (MCHP) in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba, “The Health Status of and Access to Healthcare by Registered First Nation Peoples in Manitoba” compares health data collected in 2015-2017 with the results of a study the MCHP published in 2002.
“When we look at health status and health-care access, the inequities between First Nation people and all other Manitobans have gotten worse, according to many indicators,” said Leona Star, a Cree woman who is director of research at FNHSSM and co-led the study.

For example, the First Nations life expectancy from birth in 2002 was 7 years lower than for the non-Indigenous population; in 2019 First Nations life expectancy from birth is now 11 years lower.

Other disturbing trends:

  • First Nation people’s rate of premature mortality (death before age 75):
    • 2002 = 2x other Manitobans;
    • 2019 = now 3x
  • Suicide rates for First Nations people = 5 x higher
  • Suicide attempts by First Nations people = 6x higher
  • As we have now documented that health inequities have increased since 2002, we propose the following specific actions:
  • Annual reporting on progress in addressing gaps in health and access to healthcare;
  • Development of strategic initiatives for equitable access to intervention and prevention measures (including addressing racism in the health system through mandatory cultural safety training for all staff, hiring of First Nation providers, new human resource policies for safe reporting of racist incidents);
  • Development of short-and long-term plans for the training and hiring of First Nation healthcare professionals;
  • Further development of research partnerships among MCHP, MHSAL, FNHSSM and Manitoba First Nations;
    Setting First Nations on the path to borderless healthcare delivery by improving access to primary care healthcare that is designed and delivered through First Nations-led partnerships.

http://mchp-appserv.cpe.umanitoba.ca/reference//FN_Report_web.pdf


July 12, 2021


Systemic Racism

Human Rights complaints

The Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) – fully supports the human rights complaints filed this week on behalf of First Nation citizens living in what is now Manitoba.

Three human rights complaints were filed against the federal government this week alleging systemic discrimination as well as a failure to provide proper services where they were needed for First Nation adults with disabilities. The Public Interest Law Centre brought the complaints on behalf of two First Nation people, both of whom are from southern First Nations. “We have laws and principles, such as Jordan’s Principle, to protect First Nation people and ensure our citizens finally receive the full and proper care that they deserve. Clearly and unfortunately, the system continues to fail us despite these laws,” stated SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels. “Though we are continually let down by colonial governments in this country, it is heartening to see First Nation citizens standing up for their rights and demanding better treatment and the substantive equality they deserve.”

Aidan Wilson from Peguis First Nation and Carly Sinclair from Sagkeeng Anicinabe First Nation have both experienced discrimination when seeking essential health care and services. Aidan was forced to leave Peguis First Nation and live in Winnipeg due to challenges receiving help and services for his disabilities. Living in Winnipeg has meant separation from his community and culture, and this separation was highlighted in the complaint. “The federal government continues to not only discriminate against our people but also separate them from their home, extended family, and community,” said Peguis First Nation Chief Glenn Hudson. “It’s unimaginable to me that at a time when the truth of the destruction caused by residential schools and separating children from their homes is finally coming to light for all of Canada to see, the federal government continues to contribute to the separation of our communities. It’s heartbreaking that Aidan and his family cannot live where they want to, with their people, due to systemic failures.”

Carly Sinclair has a rare neurological disorder caused by a mosquito bite, and she does not receive regular doctor’s visits and is excluded from many aspects of daily life that most Canadians take for granted. “Carly has suffered needlessly,” stated Sagkeeng Anicinabe First Nation Chief Derrick Henderson. “All First Nations should receive adequate and full services and care for their citizens with disabilities, the same as Canadians living off reserve. This should include our adult citizens, especially those who received inadequate access to services as children and now continue to be discriminated against as adults.”

Jordan’s Principle, named after Jordan River Anderson who passed away while in hospital in Manitoba as provincial and federal governments fought over which order of government would pay for his care, legally requires that First Nation children with disabilities receive the support and care they need when and where the need them, regardless of jurisdiction. Unfortunately, this principle does not extend to adults.


April 20, 2020


COVID-19

Incarcerated prisoners

First Nations leadership across BC is united in calling for immediate action to protect incarcerated peoples amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 outbreak at the Mission Institution is now the third largest outbreak in the Province of BC, with the first inmate tragically passing away on April 15, 2020. Senior health and corrections officials have verified that almost 40% of the confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Mission Institution are among Indigenous inmates despite Indigenous people making up just 5% of the population in BC.


March 2, 2021


Systemic Racism

Infant mortality and youth suicide

The Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth (MACY) and the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba – submitted a report that discusses “the international and national human rights framework as it relates to structural inequalities and Indigenous children’s right to continuous improvement of health with a particular focus on infant mortality and youth suicide in Manitoba, Canada. Specific issues raised for discussion include …the rights to life, physical and mental integrity, liberty and security of person, access to justice (preamble, and articles, 6, 7, 8, 22 and 43) and non-discrimination, health, housing (as part of the right to an adequate standard of living and non-discrimination), culture, and education (articles 14, 17, 21)”.

The focus on Manitoba includes:

  • one in two First Nations children, one in four Metis, one in four Inuit, and one in six non-Indigenous children in Manitoba live in poverty, all higher than in Canada overall.
  • Indigenous infants account for between 20-30% of live births in Manitoba between 2009 and 2018, but represent at least 57% of sleep-related infant deaths
  • Only 24 of 63 First Nations communities in Manitoba have maternal-child health programs, some of which are ‘pilot’ programs that lack permanent or sustainable funding.
  • 20 of 22 suicides of female youth between 2012 and 2019 and who were involved with the child welfare system were Indigenous.
  • while approximately 26% of the child population in Manitoba are Indigenous, they account for approximately
  • 90% of children in the care of child and family service agencies
  • 78% of children, youth, and young adults served by the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth through ongoing advocacy supports during the 2019/20 fiscal year were Indigenous.
  • A study of the overlap between Manitoba’s child welfare and justice systems found that close to one-third of children in care were later charged with a crime as a youth (age 12-17). This study confirmed that the child welfare system in Manitoba serves as a ‘pipeline’ to the youth criminal justice system
  • Indigenous youth in Manitoba are 16 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Indigenous youth
  • In 2016, only 48% of Indigenous students graduated high school “on-time”, compared to 86% of their non-Indigenous counterparts

Recommendations form the “Joint Submission to the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People”: Study on the rights of the Indigenous child under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”

ONE: Take steps to include the voices, experiences, perspectives, and testimony of Indigenous children and youth to the largest extent possible in any decision or work that may affect them, as enshrined by Article 12 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.

TWO: Acknowledge the ongoing work towards reconciliation and the fulfillment of Indigenous children’s rights in Canada by evaluating and commenting on the Government of Canada’s compliance with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 94 Calls to Actions designed to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of reconciliation in Canada and recommendations made in Honouring the Truth, Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

THREE: Recognize the self-determination of Indigenous Peoples by highlighting Indigenous-led initiatives to fulfill the rights of Indigenous children including maternal- child health programs and youth suicide prevention programs that provide children with the culturally appropriate services they are entitled to receive.

FOUR: Through the development of this study, create opportunities for Indigenous practitioners and advocates around the world to come together to generate connections, and share information and best practices

FIVE: In order to understand the differential experiences of Indigenous children and youth, the challenges they face, as well as existing gaps in the social determinants of health, it is imperative that governments systematically collect data on Indigenous ancestry, with attention to the principles of ownership, control, access, possession (OCAP®) and principles of Ethical Métis Research. Currently, this gap in information prevents a full understanding of the structural inequalities facing Indigenous children and youth.

SIX: Ensure ethical considerations are upheld and respected in all aspects of this study and any research or data collection involving Indigenous Peoples, and Indigenous children in particular, conducted by governments and other parties. Ethical considerations concerning research for and by Indigenous Peoples should involve free prior informed consent on a collective and individual basis; principles are followed to ensure Indigenous ownership, control, access, and possession of their own data and information; and all research should be respectful and benefit Indigenous Peoples.

SEVEN: Examine the role of fiscal policies that continuously underfund services for Indigenous infants, children, and their families (including schools, mental health services, and prenatal and postnatal supports) as a barrier for the realization of Indigenous children’s right to health.

EIGHT: Recognize the centrality of addressing Indigenous child poverty at the national level as a necessary condition of fulfilling Indigenous children’s right to non- discrimination and health.

NINE: Prioritize analysis of the role of the child welfare system and ongoing apprehension of Indigenous children from their families as this is in direct violation of the right of Indigenous children to a family life, to health, to culture, and to a future.
https://manitobaadvocate.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021-03-1-UNDRIP_Joint_Submission.pdf


May 21, 2020


COVID-19

Manitoba Hydro’s Keeyask project

CBC – Members of the four First Nation community partners of Manitoba Hydro’s Keeyask project (Tataskweyak, Fox Lake, War Lake and York Factory) have launched protests to protect their communities from COVID-19. Hydro is switching out the current 600 on-site employees with an outside group of 1000 some of whom are from outside Manitoba. The Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench issued an injunction on Monday, ordering the blockade be removed and Hydro be granted access to the construction site. The injunction was served on Wednesday by members of the RCMP.

Chief Doreen Spence “ripped that injunction [and] put it on the ground,” Tataskweyak band Coun. Nathan Neckoway said Thursday morning.

A number of Tataskweyak Cree Nation community members who are concerned about the possible spread of COVID-19 started blocking Provincial Road 280 and the north access road to the Manitoba Hydro Keeyask work site on the weekend, in an attempt to stop a worker shift change scheduled for Tuesday. After the injunction was delivered, Fox Lake First Nation put up their own blockade on the Keeyask south access road.


November 19, 2020


COVID-19

Problems with Indigenous COVID-19 data

Toronto Star – COVID-19 is negatively impacting both on-reserve and off-reserve Indigenous populations. “Hospitalizations and intensive-care rates are sky high for off-reserve populations and testing is low. Both on and off reserves, about 18% of tests come back positive. The issues identified by Janet Smylie, research chair in Indigenous health knowledge and information at Well Living House at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto is threefold:

  1. Urban Indigenous people are not included in federal statistics nor are they “included in new initiatives to collect statistics on a disaggregated basis to take into account minorities
  2. They check all the boxes for being at high risk for catching COVID-19
  3. Due to health delivery being delivered by the provinces, Indigenous data is fragmented as a result of “decades of entrenched jurisdictional conflict and passing the buck”
  4. The trends in Manitoba could be indicative of broader trends impacting urban indigenous communities in other provinces and sound, reliable data is essential to inform decisions.

“Resources could be allocated to a fragile segment of the population in a way that is both effective and meaningful”. The National Association of Friendship Centres is at the frontline of delivering services to the urban Indigenous population with centres across the country. “Staff at the centres are constantly scrambling for extra space, resources and personal protective equipment to handle the safety demands of the virus.” Jocelyn Formsma, Executive Director, NAFC


January 28, 2021


Systemic Racism

Racism against Indigenous womern

Native Women’s Association of Canada – At a two-day meeting at which the issue of anti-Indigenous racism in Canada’s healthcare systems will be addressed by federal, provincial, and territorial governments as well as representatives of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit, NWAC is not being permitted to give more broadly based opening remarks Wednesday, along with other male-led National Indigenous Organizations. Had NWAC been permitted to speak at the meeting’s opening, said Ms. Whitman, NWAC president “we would have explained that Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse persons are disproportionately affected by systemic racism and violence in healthcare.” Instead, NWAC’s remarks the following day will be confined to the two narrower questions put by the government around “identifying diversity and intersectionality actions”.

The problem of racism in healthcare delivery moved to the forefront of national consciousness last year when Canadians heard the horrific and discriminatory remarks directed at Joyce Echaquan, an Indigenous woman, as she lay in her deathbed at a hospital in Quebec. “It is Indigenous women who have been subjected to forced sterilizations. It is Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people who have been the targets of violence that a National Inquiry found to be a genocide, and which forces many of us to seek medical treatment,” said Ms. Whitman.

“It is a problem to which we, at NWAC, have given much thought because it so profoundly affects our members,” she said. “We will be offering some ideas about ways to tackle racism in healthcare settings during the five minutes we have been allotted at the meeting on Thursday. But we would like the government to demonstrate that it is just as interested in hearing the voices of Indigenous women on this issue as it is in hearing the voices of Indigenous men.”

The experiences of Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse persons in the healthcare system are not the same as those of men. Success in defeating racism depends on our ability to recognize each other as inextricably linked partners in this task


February 3, 2021


Systemic Racism

Racism in Winnipeg Fire Dept.

Southern Chiefs Organization – SCO is asking Mayor Brian Bowman along with Fire and Paramedic Services Chief, John Lane, and all relevant officials to take immediate disciplinary action as it relates to an incident of systemic racism. City of Winnipeg firefighters ignored repeated requests for help from a paramedic who was trying to administer care to an Indigenous woman who had been stabbed in the throat. The incident occurred in October of last year. The third-party probe also revealed the firefighters failed to provide medical care to the patient and delayed transportation of the patient to the hospital. The report goes on to show that one of the firefighters who then rode in the ambulance with the victim continued to refuse to assist with her care.

According to the Winnipeg Free Press, during interviews with the investigator, one of the firefighters repeatedly referred to the incident as “just another call in the North End” and claimed that “Black Lives Matter had made martyrs out of career criminals.” SCO is in the midst of revealing even more incidents of systemic racism. A soon to be released survey takes a hard look at racism in healthcare. Initial findings reveal an overwhelmingly consistent pattern of discrimination, neglect, and even abuse. An astounding 92% of survey respondents either strongly agreed or agreed with the statement that “racism is a problem in Manitoba’s healthcare system.” More than half of respondents are deterred from seeking medical help due to experiences of racism within the health care system.


April 23, 2020


COVID-19

Release of at-risk Indigenous inmates

The Indigenous Bar Association (IBA)– Calls Upon Federal, Provincial and Territorial Justice Ministers and Attorneys General to Immediately Release low-risk Indigenous Inmates over COVID-19.Specifically, we call for the immediate release of incarcerated Indigenous people and the following actions:

  • Immediately and minimally, carry-out the release of Indigenous inmates that are low-risk, non-violent, nearly eligible for parole, nearing sentence end, over 50 years of age, pregnant women, those offenders who are able to be adequately supervised in the community, and those at heightened risk due to pre-existing medical and chronic health conditions;
  • The release of inmates described above to apply to federal and provincial correctional facilities, including all remand, youth and short-term detentions centres;
    • For those that absolutely cannot be released, ensure:
    • Full access to medical and mental health care;]]
    • Full and equitable access to personal protective equipment, medical grade sanitizer and cleaning agents, personal hygiene products, and other critical supplies, with invariable availability of these supplies to all inmates and correction workers (including officers, administrators, and all other employees and contractors);
  • Access to enhanced cultural supports during heightened safety measures, ensuring any quarantine of those incarcerated is carried out in the least traumatic way, in an attempt to mitigate resurgence of traumatic experiences or intergenerational effects of the legacy of colonialism;
  • In accordance with domestic and international laws and conventions, ensure that institutions do not use isolation methods that are akin to segregation punishment for infected inmates, specifically:
    • Individuals should not serve longer than 15 days in segregation, isolation, solitary confinement, medical removal or administrative removal;
    • Those who are segregated within the 15-day limit are given access to daily use of shower, telephone, and recreational facilities;
    • Those who are segregated are given daily access to mental health professionals in attempt to mitigate the lasting damage done by isolation;
  • Implement the short and long-term measures identified recently by the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs in their open letter dated March 24, 2020; and
  • Correctional Services Canada and all provincial correctional jurisdictions implement the recommendations of the Correctional Investigator of Canada, Dr. Ivan Zinger and take notice of specific requests by Indigenous organizations and communities.

Protecting the health of oilsands workers is more important than protecting the health of Indigenous people as evidenced by the suspension of environmental monitoring by Alberta Energy Regulator


March 13, 2020


Ongoing Health Crisis

Safe and Sound: A Special Report on the Unexpected Sleep-Related Deaths of 145 Manitoba Infants

Release of Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth (2020): Safe and Sound: A Special Report on the Unexpected Sleep-Related Deaths of 145 Manitoba Infants” According to population projections, Indigenous infants account for between 20-30% of live births in Manitoba during the study period (Jan. 2009 – Dec. 2018), but represent 57% of sleep-related infant deaths. That translates to 83 First Nations and Métis infants.

Policies articulated in the Indian Act have excluded Indigenous Peoples from participation in economic life for generations, leading to intergenerational poverty. In evidence of ongoing systemic racism, many Indigenous families have unequal access to health services, they lack suitable stable housing, and access to clean drinking water. The health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Manitobans is widening (Katz et al. 2019). Of the 13 recommendations, 7 are directed towards First Nations and Métis governments and various federal and provincial ministries.

https://manitobaadvocate.ca/wp-content/uploads/SafeSleep-Report.pdf


May 19, 2021


COVID-19

Systemic Racism

Southern Chiefs Organization – 45% of ICU patients in Manitoba are First Nation people despite representing only 10 per cent of the total population. Manitoba is now the worst COVID-19 hotspot in North America.

“I am deeply concerned about the health and well-being of the people I represent if these trends continued,” stated Grand Chief Daniels. “Our people have been disproportionately impacted throughout this pandemic and Pallister’s continued failed leadership means even more lives will be lost, especially First Nation lives. Main issues:

  1. 1chronic staffing shortages, with senior level nurses the most likely to leave as they face long hours and burnout, largely due to the failure of the province to gain control of COVID-19 cases at the beginning of the second and third waves of the pandemic.
  2. Unaddressed outcomes that resulted from the closing of several emergency rooms in 2019, including at Concordia, Seven Oaks, and Victoria Hospitals. This loss of emergency care has had harmful effects on communities that have never been addressed. In November of 2020, the province doubled down on this failed policy and closed emergency services at Grandview Health Centre, resulting in many local residents holding a rally in protest of the decision.
  3. SCO is calling on the province to pay heed to the latest epidemiology and modelling and to do everything it possibly can to curb this latest surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, especially with the marked increase in variants of concern, which are more contagious and deadly.

Closing Thought

On Dec. 19, 2020 Manitoba First Nations represented 47% of all ICU patients. Six months later that number sits at 45%. What has Brian Pallister’s government done to prepare for COVID-19 especially since – after the Inuit – Manitoba First Nations were the hardest hit during the H1N1 epidemic of 2009.

See also “Perspective” article: “is Premier Brian Pallister of Manitoba a racist, an entitled colonial brat or both?”


November 12, 2020


COVID-19

Systemic Racism at federal, provincial, territory ministers human rights meeting

NationTalk – 24 civil society groups attending the third ever meeting of Federal, Provincial, Territory Ministers responsible for human rights “condemned the obstructive attitude of some governments” in advancing international human rights obligations. Groups had pressed governments to commit to nation-wide law reform that will legally require governments to adopt a collaborative, accountable, consistent, transparent, well-coordinated approach to effectively implementing international human rights obligations in Canada. No commitment was made. Two governments boycotted the meeting:

The government of Quebec opposed included references to “systemic” racism in the final communiqué, a position that blatantly ignores the undeniable reality of deeply-rooted systemic racism in the province and across Canada, and thus reaffirms systemic racism as a nationwide reality.
The government of Alberta considers that the province is not bound to report on or engage with international instruments or mechanisms to which it is not a Party, a position that contravenes international law which makes it clear that federalism is no excuse or justification for failing to comply with international obligations.
In 2017, meeting for the first time in 29 years, ministers made several commitments to strengthen their collaboration in protecting human rights across Canada:

Ministers had taken account of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call on federal, provincial and territorial governments to “fully adopt and implement” the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is a shocking and unacceptable omission to see no reference to the Declaration in the final communiqué from this week’s meeting.
During the past eight months of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, no government has applied – equitably or otherwise – an explicit economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights framework to analyze the problems laid bare, or to structure solutions.
A widely-endorsed proposal in April 2020 from 302 civil society groups, Indigenous peoples’ organizations and a broad spectrum of subject matter experts to federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments to institute meaningful human rights oversight of their COVID-19 responses has not been taken up by any government in the country.

At the current meeting, Ministers discussed the human rights implications of the COVID-19 pandemic and agreed that it is “important that human rights principles be considered in the development of plans for a strong and equitable recovery from the pandemic for all Canadians” but in no way acknowledged or even referenced social and economic rights. The proposal for human rights oversight of COVID-19 responses was not addressed.


September 8, 2020


Health Care Reform

Unicef “Innocenti Report Card 16”

NationTalk – Release of Unicef “Innocenti Report Card 16: Worlds of Influence – Understanding What Shapes Child Well-being in Rich Countries” where Canada placed in the bottom 10 of 38 countries. In fact, all four countries with large Indigenous populations – who all initially opposed The United Nations Declaration the Rights of Indigenous People – ALL placed in the bottom 8: (Canada # 30, Australia # 32, New Zealand # 35 and the United States # 36) and experts attribute this to the poor health outcomes of Indigenous kids.

Unicef issued “Top 5 Policies to Defend Childhood in 2020” on Dec. 30, 2019 one of which # 3 “Ensure Fairness for indigenous Children.” The federal government should adopt the Spirit Bear Plan proposed by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and endorsed by the Chiefs of the Assembly of First Nations to permanently end funding shortfalls in the services provided to First Nations children. First Nations children and families living on reserve and in the Territories receive public services funded by the federal government. Since Confederation, these services have fallen significantly short of what other Canadians receive. In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its Calls to Action, including a call to achieve parity for First Nations, Inuit and Métis children. Equitable spending on public services for children including clean water, health care, education and protection is their right.


November 2, 2020


COVID-19

Work Camps and COVID-19

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc. – is issuing this statement along with the four Cree Nations that are in a partnership with Manitoba Hydro in the construction and operation of the Keeyask Generating Station in Northern Manitoba. The four First Nations are: Tataskweyak Cree Nation, Fox Lake Cree Nation, War Lake First Nation, and York Factory Cree Nation. On October 22, 2020, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed at the Keeyask site. Since then, an unspecified number of COVID-19 tests have been done on staff. Yesterday, First Nations leaders learned that additional positive cases have been confirmed and many more cases are presumed positives. Almost 10% of the workforce is now in isolation.

MKO and the four First Nations are demanding that the Province of Manitoba immediately declare the Keeyask construction site as code red under the province’s pandemic response system. The First Nations are asking the province to take aggressive action to bring the epidemic under control. MKO and the First Nations are extremely concerned about the lack of information Manitoba Hydro has provided on the spread of this virus. People from the four First Nations work at Keeyask and fear that people may have unknowingly brought COVID-19 back to their home communities before the first case of COVID-19 was detected on October 22. Manitoba Hydro cannot confirm on what date the virus may have appeared on site. The First Nations are working closely with public health officials to determine next steps.

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, MKO First Nations have expressed concerns about Manitoba Hydro’s plans for the Keeyask construction site. Manitoba Hydro has more than 750 employees at Keeyask who come and go from the site on rotating shifts—most employees have 21 days on and 7 days off. Manitoba Hydro has staff working at the site from various parts of Canada, including a current COVID-19 hotspot—Winnipeg.

“I commend the First Nations leaders who have worked diligently to try to protect our people. The provincial government must take aggressive action at the Keeyask construction site as there is an uncontrolled epidemic taking place. This site is not providing any hydro-electric power at this point, it is not an essential operation. MKO asserts that Manitoba Hydro and the Government of Manitoba need to put people before profits,” shared MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee.


May 20, 2020


COVID-19

Work Camps and COVID-19

CBC – We were not included in the discussion of the plan for the shift change,” said Robert Wavey, a band member and spokesperson for Fox Lake Cree Nation. “It was given to [First Nations] after Hydro came up with their plan.” “Our First Nations leaders do not want to see a repeat of what is happening in La Loche, Sask.,” Settee said in the letter, referencing a COVID-19 outbreak in the northern and largely Indigenous town, which affected more than 100 people.