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.