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Indigenous youth want more Indigenous-led models, support to access health care in Winnipeg, report says

February 26, 2024

Discussion with 26 Indigenous youth highlights ‘deep mistrust’ of health-care system

A doctor's examination room is seen through an open door, with a stethoscope hanging on its handle.
A new report based on a discussion with 26 Indigenous young people in Winnipeg says they’d like to see more Indigenous-led primary health-care services available in the province. (Katherine Holland/CBC)

CBC Indigenous: Some Indigenous youth in Winnipeg say discrimination in the province’s primary health-care system is pervasive — and they want more Indigenous staff and fewer barriers to accessing care in order to help fix that problem, a new report says.

The project OurCare included a national survey completed in fall 2022 with more than 9,000 respondents. It’s meant to examine the state of primary care — where individuals get ongoing care or treatment for minor issues, outside of emergency departments — in Canada. The research group MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions, based at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, released its final report in February. 

As part of the project, it also held a roundtable in November with 26 Indigenous youth, aged 19 to 29, at the Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre in Winnipeg.

Advocate Michael Redhead Champagne, who led the one-day discussion, said the youth explained how both they and their family members often get lower-quality care in the health-care system.

“They not only were worried about themselves, but they also were talking about how they have relatives that are in isolated rural or remote communities or in places where they don’t have the same access that we would in Winnipeg to primary care infrastructure,” he said in a Sunday interview.

The national report — Primary Care Needs OurCare: The final report of the largest pan-Canadian conversation about primary care — calls for changes in Manitoba’s mainstream primary care system, and is part of a national initiative meant to engage Canadians about the future of primary care.

Idea of kinship in health care

OurCare also released a local report following the November roundtable, titled Health services should care for us ‘Auntie Style’: A conversation about primary care with Indigenous Youth in Winnipeg.

The report highlighted key issues the youth expressed with the province’s health-care system, including “anti-Indigenous discrimination,” a “deep mistrust” of the system, lack of support for navigating the system and lack of health resources in First Nations communities.

A man sitting.
Michael Redhead Champagne facilitated a discussion with 26 Indigenous young people last November about changes they’d like to see in how Manitoba delivers health care. (Karen Pauls/CBC News)

For Champagne, the idea of kinship stood out for him during the discussion.

“It means being treated in the health-care system as if you’re being treated like a family member or a relative, with love and care and respect,” he said. “When we were trying to ask the young people to focus on what type of a primary care system they would like to see, inevitably, time and time again, the conversations broadened out to ‘I would like to see this for myself and this for my family.’ There was no differentiation.”

Youth and young parents said they have had difficulty finding family doctors and getting proper identification, like birth certificates or health cards, for their children. 

Indigenous-led spaces, walk-in clinics and medical practices can help them gain trust in the health-care system, the report adds.

More Indigenous staff, trauma-informed care

Youth also called for the hiring of more Indigenous staff and the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives in health-care delivery. “Perhaps even in situations where they may even be able to … have conversations about their care in an Indigenous language, or even refer to spiritual practices that positively impact their mental health without judgment or stigma,” said Champagne.

The report also said the youth would like to see an Indigenous studies course mandated for all health-care workers and more trauma-informed practices in the system.

“[They] talked about how they were injured or hurt and then they went into the health-care system to receive care and then they received additional trauma or additional challenges that impacted their health in an even greater way,” Champagne said.

Offering bus passes or transportation to and from medical appointments were other calls for change Champagne said he appreciated hearing. “Here in Winnipeg there are numerous stories of people being discharged without their relatives being known at an inappropriate time, without adequate transportation to get to a place of safety,” he noted.

With the report’s release, Champagne said he hopes to see tangible changes in the way the province delivers health care to Indigenous young people.

“I really would love to see some type of a formal response from the Manitoba Health officials to be able to say ‘We have received this report and here is how we plan on either implementing or further discussing these types of suggestions.'”

On Monday, Health Minister Uzoma Asagwara said they want the youth involved to know their voices are being heard and that they “look forward to taking action” on what youth said in the report.

In a written statement, Dr. Amanda Condon, the primary care lead for Shared Health and a Manitoba advisor on the OurCare project, said the report informs the health organization’s “efforts to strengthen patient-focused and culturally-safe primary care” in the province.


Rachel Ferstl, Reporter

Rachel Ferstl started reporting for CBC Manitoba in February 2023. She graduated from Red River College Polytechnic’s creative communications program and has a bachelor of arts in communications from the University of Winnipeg. She was the 2023 recipient of the Eric and Jack Wells Excellence in Journalism Award and the Dawna Friesen Global News Award for Journalism. Her work has also appeared in the Globe and Mail and the Winnipeg Free Press. Get in touch with her at