Health (18-24): Current Problems

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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.


January 6, 2022


COVID-19

Bearskin Lake COVID Crisis

Toronto Star – Last week Bearskin Lake declared a state of emergency due to the high number of COVID-19 cases in the community. On Monday morning Chief Lefty Kamenawatamin issued a press release requesting the Government of Canada provide military assistance for the beleaguered community: “Currently, the majority of households are under quarantine and require food and water delivery, chopped wood for heating, and medication to relieve fever and pain.”

This is one of those rare moments in the Canadian media cycle where the public receives a glimpse of life in a remote, northern Indigenous community. Bearskin Lake is a town of about 450 people that lacks year-round road access to neighbouring communities, connection to the electrical power grid, and a resident physician or dentist. The community’s airport, located more than 10 km northwest of the town, was built in the 1940s; its gravel runway is too short to accommodate large cargo planes.

For power, the community relies on a diesel-generated system which is dependent on fuel trucked in during the short ice-road season. Operating the community’s aging road, water and sewer infrastructure is a year-round challenge for local staff. A long-term boil-water advisory has been in place in the community since February 2021. The town has a small health centre staffed by two nurses. Physician services are provided through telemedicine and by rotating visits from Sioux Lookout, located more than 450 km to the south.

Bearskin Lake is not alone in facing enormous hurdles to economic and social development. In Northern Ontario alone, there are 31 First Nation communities with similar infrastructure and service challenges. Across Canada there are 118 Indigenous communities defined as “remote.” Each year, the limited provincial and federal investments made toward improvements make few inroads in the gaps in health and living conditions faced by people living in these communities.

In Bearskin Lake, nearly half of the population has tested positive with COVID-19. Those who haven’t are exhausted from caring for their ill family and community members. Supplies of food, water and wood are diminishing, and people are too tired, ill or impoverished to replenish them. The town lacks hotels and food service to cope with an influx of volunteers, and so cannot accept their generosity for fear of depleting the town’s limited resources.

Bearskin Lake is in crisis, and the situation in other remote Indigenous communities is similarly dire. Chief Kamenawatamin has called for aid. Will Canada answer?


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


March 1, 2019


Health Care Reform

Bill-74 The People’s Health Care Act, 2019

Bill-74 “The People’s Health Care Act, 2019” does not contain recognition of First Nations jurisdiction in health area and specifically Articles 18 and 23, of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, have not been recognized, as there has been no consultation with First Nations in developing this legislation. (Chiefs of Ontario)

This legislation is set to create a new Agency called Ontario Health, which will be formed by dissolving the province’s 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) and merging their duties with those of six other health agencies, including Cancer Care Ontario and eHealth Ontario. First Nations must be involved in the conversation if we are to improve the overall health of First Nations in Ontario,” said Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald. “We hope for a continued collaboration between First Nations and the Government of Ontario, so First Nations can provide a recommended approach that will lead to overall healthcare improvement and address the gap within First Nations healthcare. “


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/


November 9, 2019


Systemic Racism

Coroner investigating systemic racism at Thunder Bay Hospital

Toronto Star – A 19-year old First Nations man taken to the hospital by ambulance in obvious distress was escorted off the hospital property three hours later by security staff. Apparently, escorting Indigenous people who are seeking medical care off of hospital property is common practice. The would be patient ultimately committed suicide at a remote part of nearby Lakehead University.

An internal review of the case by the hospital “concluded that appropriate actions were taken and that the right decisions were made by clinical staff based on the information provided to them and the patient’s presentation.”
Tanya Talaga, Toronto Star. An investigation is currently underway by Ontario’s chief coroner, Dirk Huyer. He told me it will look for any “potential systemic issues that may have played a role in contributing to the death — policies, procedures, steps taken.” It will also examine whether this death is part of a pattern — and make any recommendations necessary to break that pattern.


February 17, 2022


COVID-19

COVID issues in northern Ontario vs southern Ontario

Feb. 17, 2022: CBC – As Ontario lifts more COVID-19 restrictions, First Nations in the province’s north are still grappling with the Omicron surge. Chiefs from several northern several northern communities were briefed Wednesday about the COVID-19 situation, and the Sioux Lookout First Nation Health Authority outlined the difference in northern data about the virus compared to the south.

“While things elsewhere in the province are maybe moving ahead and have all the resources at their disposal. First Nations in this region again do not have access to all the infrastructure that someone else down south might have access to,” said Dr. Lloyd Douglas, the top public health physician for the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority (SLFNHA).

Douglas told CBC News the provincewide easing of many restrictions is missing the context of what’s happening in northern areas. He said not only is a historic lack of resources a concern at this stage in the pandemic, but the north is also weeks behind the rest of the province when it comes to test positivity rates and hospitalizations. The health authority is seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases in the region Eabametoong and Mishkeegogamang First Nations in outbreak, while Pikangikum is just starting to see a decline in spread of the virus.

Dr. Anna Banerji, an infectious disease specialist and founder of the Indigenous Health Conference, said the province has not fully consulted with people on the ground in remote First Nations.  She said the risks for having COVID-19 unleashed into remote communities is more consequential than in the southern part of the province.

She pointed to a number of factors that can worsen the situation, such as:

  • overcrowding in homes
  • a lack of surge capacity and 
  • health-care infrastructure

The discrepancies between what’s happening in different parts of the province shows it’s time for more representation from the north at the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, added Banerji. Sol Mamakwa, Ontario NDP MPP for the riding of Kiiwetinoong, echoes the concerns for northern Ontario as COVID-19 case counts climb. He said having representation from northern communities in the form of a separate chief medical officer of health is a crucial step toward having a strong public health system. 

“Sometimes, we’re not treated as part of Ontario, as citizens of Ontario. And I think it’s really important to put the uniqueness of First Nations when we speak about having a medical officer,” he said.


October 23, 2019


Health Care Reform

Declaration of Public Health Emergency

Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Resolution 16/04 Call for Declaration of Public Health Emergency.

NAN is a political territorial organization representing 49 First Nation communities within northern Ontario with the total population of membership (on and off reserve) around 45,000 people.

The Sioux Lookout Chiefs Committee on Health and the NAN Executive declared a Health and Public Health Emergency for First Nations across NAN territory. This Declaration was not made lightly. It was forced into existence by decades of perpetual crisis and persistent health care inequities at the NAN community level. The Declaration is an assertion of the inherent Treaty rights of NAN members to equal opportunities for health, including access to appropriate, timely, high-quality health care, regardless of where they live, what they have or who they are.

In order to exercise our self-determination over health we need to bring back accountability, responsibility and resource allocation to our communities. This involves changing the current colonial system to a new system that is based on the needs and priorities of our communities. This led to the execution of a trilateral commitment document: The Charter of Relationship Principles Governing Health System Transformation in NAN Territory (the Charter) which was mandated by NAN Resolution 17/21. The Charter was signed by the Parties (Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, Minister Jane Philpott and Minister Eric Hoskins) on July 24, 2017.

In order to support the NAN Health Transformation process, the governments agreed to several actions, including:

  • Developing new approaches to improve the health and health access, including access at the community level.
  • Supporting the ability of First Nations communities and organizations to deliver their own services.
  • Proposing policy reform and exploring legislative changes to design a new health system for NAN territory, including sustainable funding models and decision-making structures.
  • Removing barriers caused by jurisdiction, funding, policy, culture and structures so that First Nations can deliver better plan, design and manage their own services

http://www.nan.on.ca/upload/documents/mushkikiw-wiichihiitiiwin-gathering-fina.pdf


January 17, 2022


Systemic Racism

Discrimination in Niagara Health System

Niagara Chapter-Native Women – The NCNW Board of Directors is asking for a full Coroner’s Inquest into the death of Heather Winterstein, 24, who passed away while in the care of Niagara Health System on Dec 10, 2021. We call for the Coroner’s Inquest to address the long-standing issues of discrimination against Indigenous people, particularly Indigenous Women and to fulfill the family’s wishes to ensure that this “never happens to another family”.
“Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident.’ She says “an eerily similar story occurred when Brent Sky 32, an Ojibway man from Shoal Lake reserve, was transported 90 kilometres by ambulance to Lake of the Woods District Hospital in Kenora.” He was suffering with an extremely severe headache and painful vision. He was seen in the emergency room and sent on his way with 3 Ibuprofen pills, (readily available over the counter). He travelled back home – alone – by bus. Speaking to his parents that evening, he still complained of the headache and pain in his eyes. The following morning his father found him dead. He died of a brain bleed. This was October 27, reported in a CBC article posted on December 13, 2021, “just 3 days after Heather’s Dec. 10 death,’’ said Brant.


December 17, 2021


Systemic Racism

Discrimination in Niagara Health System

Toronto Star – Niagara Ontario Health Team Planning Table (NOHT) has voiced its support for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Heather Winterstein, an Indigenous woman who collapsed and died in the emergency room at the St. Catharines site of Niagara Health.

Carol Stewart-Kirkby, co-lead for the health team, said there is a need to acknowledge systemic racism exists, confront anti-Indigenous bias and seek change. “This incident is a tragic reminder of the urgent need to work to understand how the legacy of colonization continues to impact health-care systems,” Stewart-Kirby said. “Our thoughts are focused on supporting the people most directly involved.”

Winterstein had visited the emergency room on Dec. 9. Complaining of pain, she was given Tylenol and sent home. She was brought back to the hospital by ambulance the next day, complaining of severe back pain and later died before seeing a doctor. Her family was told Heather died as the result of a strep A infection.
Niagara Health announced it would be conducting an internal investigation into Winterstein’s death and had invited her family and Indigenous leaders in Niagara to be a part of it and a broader investigation that would consider the experiences of Indigenous people in the health-care system in Niagara.


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

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.

January 24, 2022


COVID-19

First Nations children excluded from Government COVID Program

Toronto Star – First Nations children in Ontario are excluded from the provincial governments commitments “that all schools in Ontario will have access to rapid COVID tests and N95 masks for teachers, as well as upgraded masks for students and HEPA filters in each classroom.”

Excuses from provincial leaders hold that this is the responsibility of their federal counterparts.
The excuses continue from federal officials, who respond that there is limited funding, while local leaders on the ground complain that you can only apply for supplies through a complicated process entrenched in lengthy bureaucratic procedures — and applications rarely yield results.

How many HEPA filters has the Nishnawbe Aski Nation received to date for schools? The answer is none.
“We haven’t seen anything yet,” said Bobby Narcisse, the deputy grand chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which represents 49 First Nations in northern Ontario. “It’s just looking for that equitable access to many of those resources that every other school in the province has access to.” How would parents feel if their child was denied access to safety measures that other children were entitled to, based on their race? Most parents would say this is discrimination and would not tolerate it. Yet we permit it for Indigenous children and youth across the province.
Currently, there is urgency for the children going back to school during the worst health crisis of our lives.
Premier Ford says all children have access to supplies to make school safer. We must ensure that this really means all children in Ontario.

The province should now immediately apply Jordan’s Principle, which prioritizes the safety of children first, while addressing jurisdictional infighting over financial payments later.


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.


June 30, 2021


Ongoing Health Crisis

Grassy Narrows Care Home

Toronto Star – After more than 50 years of failed negotiations, the federal government committed $90M for a care home that will treat those poisoned by mercury. The deal includes:

  • $68.9M in a trust for operational and servicing costs over 30 years and an agreement to periodically review the funding levels.
  • $19.5M previously announced for construction costs for the facility.
  • The new care home, once completed, is expected to offer palliative care, physiotherapy, counselling, traditional healing and have both in- and outpatient services. It will be able to treat 22 in-patients.

Over the past three years, the Star and scientists have revealed that fish near Grassy Narrows remain the most contaminated in the province; that there are mercury-contaminated soil and river sediments at or near the site of the old mill; and that the provincial government knew in the 1990s that mercury was visible in soil under that site and never told anyone in Grassy Narrows or nearby Wabaseemoong (Whitedog) Independent Nations. Scientists strongly suspect that old mercury still contaminates the mill site and pollutes the river.

Grassy Narrows First Nations has been fighting all levels of government for over 50 years since the paper Mill in Dryden dumped over 10 tons of toxic mercury into the Wabigoon River upstream of Grassy Narrows in northern Ontario.


July 14, 2016


Ongoing Health Crisis

Grassy Narrows mercury clean-up ignored for over 30 years

Toronto Star – Ontario’s former environment minister called for a clean-up of mercury contaminating Grassy Narrows First Nation, historical cabinet memos obtained by the Star show. But nothing was done by the government of the day to clean up the polluted river and lakes, and more than 30 years later the fish that feed the community are still contaminated. The March 30, 1984, recommendation to cabinet from then-Environment Minister Andrew Brandt said the government should endorse a $2-3 million remediation plan to “cover the mercury sediments” in the nearby Clay Lake on the English-Wabigoon River, but hold off on the more disruptive and costly option of dredging the river system pending further study.

What had prompted the former environment minister’s advice was a scientific report by the 1983 Canada-Ontario Steering Committee on the English-Wabigoon River System. The report said the mercury had contaminated sediments in the surrounding rivers and lakes and that the fish would be contaminated for generations if the mercury wasn’t cleaned up. (Today, one meal of Walleye from Clay Lake contains up to 150 times the safe dose of mercury recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.) The committee recommended, among other things, to place clean sediment in the water so that it settles on the bottom of Clay Lake to stabilize the mercury-contaminated sediment — a method called resuspension — as well as some dredging of the river. A small pilot project done for the 1983 report tested the method of resuspension in Clay Lake and found it reduced mercury levels in fish “by ten times.” The provincial government should not appear reluctant to take action on the report’s recommendations,” wrote a senior environment ministry staffer in a briefing note circulated within the department in the spring of 1984”. 37 years ago and the Indigenous people of Grassy Narrows First Nation and Wabaseemoong First Nation are still waiting – and dying!”


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


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.


April 9, 2021


Systemic Racism

Nurses told to leave First Nation during pandemic

Globe and Mail – For the past two weeks, during a global pandemic, Pikangikum First Nation – a Northern Ontario community of nearly 3,600, located along the Berens River near the Manitoba border – has operated without a fully equipped police service or access to proper medical care…On March 19, Chief Owen and the band council expelled the community’s 10-member Ontario Provincial Police force after misconduct allegations surfaced against officers, including claims of sexual and physical assault of women who had been brought into custody. An investigation into the allegations is now being conducted by the Special Investigations Unit, the body that investigates Ontario’s police.

But when the police left Pikangikum, the nurses there were also forced to leave, as per instruction by Indigenous Services Canada, or ISC. They were uprooted from their homes and patients, told to grab their bags and head out.


February 5, 2020


Systemic Racism

OHRC claims discrimination in accessing health services in Timmins

Timmins The Daily Press – On the second anniversary of the deaths of Joey Knapaysweet and Agnes Sutherland, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) announced it has filed an application with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) alleging discrimination based on Indigenous ancestry by public service providers in Timmins, Ontario. The February 2018 deaths of Joey Knapaysweet and Agnes Sutherland highlight the serious and sometimes tragic result of systemic discrimination against First Nations peoples in Northern Ontario. Both Joey Knapaysweet and Agnes Sutherland traveled to Timmins from Fort Albany First Nation, more than 400 km away, to access health services that were not available in their community. These circumstances left them particularly vulnerable to discrimination.

The OHRC acts in the public interest and is committed to ensuring that Indigenous peoples receive equal access to essential services consistent with their unique cultural and language needs, pursuant to the Ontario Human Rights Code and consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The OHRC is seeking a variety of public interest remedies, including requiring the respondents to:

  • Engage with Indigenous communities to understand their concerns and needs
  • Develop policies and provide training to ensure that their services are delivered in a culturally competent and safe manner, free of discrimination
  • Develop a human resources plan to promote and expand the hiring and promotion of Indigenous staff
  • Collect human rights-based data to identify problems and monitor solutions.

March 23, 2021


Systemic Racism

Premier’s racist comment

Sudbury.com – “The member flew in [to] get his vaccine, so thank you for doing that and kind of jumping the line,” Ford said. “I talked to a few chiefs that were pretty upset about that for flying into the community that he doesn’t belong to, but that’s not here nor there.” Premier Doug Ford commenting in the legislature. on March 1. In reality, Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa was invited to “lead by example” by travelling to Sandy Lake First Nation to receive his second vaccination publicly (He got his first for the same reason in Muskrat Dam First Nation). Many Indigenous people are hesitant to get a vaccine from a government that has treated them so poorly and some communities only had 10- to 20-per cent turnout. After his demonstration, Sandy Lake had an increase to 99-per-cent turnout for the second dose that same week.

“The way Ford treated me, I was floored by it,” said Mamakwa. “I thought, maybe he just doesn’t know what I was asking? Then, I started thinking about the disrespect that he has shown to Indigenous people, not just me, but also the lack of compassion and the indifference that exists there.” Mamakwa said it is the moment that confirmed his view of the premier. “What he said, it showed me the real Doug Ford,” said Mamakwa. “It’s not just an attack on me, but it’s an attack on Indigenous people.”

“The holding of racist stereotypes that we saw at Question Period, if you hold those ideas about us as First Nations people, it makes sense that our people will continue not to trust the government. To see this exhibited at the highest political level in Ontario is not acceptable.” He said it even lessens the hope that many have that there will be a solution to the deep-seated issues within First Nation communities.


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


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


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.