On April 11, 2016 Attawapiskat First Nation, located in northern Ontario, was declared to be in a state of emergency after 11 people attempted suicide in the matter of days. The underlying problem is a health crisis.
Health Minister Eric Hoskins has stated that although Canada ranked 8th last year on the United Nations human development index, the Aboriginal people in Canada would rank 63rd by the same standard. Due to the higher rates of poverty and lower life expectancy among Aboriginal people in Canada, the Liberal government has decided to spend $222 million, over the next three years, to improve aboriginal healthcare in the Province. The plan includes:
• Investments in primary health care, including increasing physician services by 2,641 more days for 28 First Nations communities across the Sioux Lookout region
• Providing cultural competency training for front-line health care providers and administrators who work with First Nations communities
• The establishment of up to 10 new or expanded primary care teams that include traditional healing
• Expanding access to fresh fruits and vegetables for approximately 13,000 more Indigenous children in northern and remote communities
• Expanding diabetes prevention and management in Indigenous communities
• More hospital beds for seniors care at Meno Ya Win Health Centre and increased funding to the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority for capital planning
• Improving access to home and community care services, including on-reserve
• Life promotion and crisis support, such as trauma response teams, youth programs and mental health workers in schools
• Expanding access to telemedicine for individuals who need clinical support.
The plan is, following the three year commitment, Ontario will continue to spend $104 million annually on reducing health inequities and improving access to culturally appropriate health services.
In response to the funding, Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day has stated “we must never lose sight that these health crises will only end when we address the main determinants such as water, housing, education and economically sustainable communities…There’s a long history behind the health and social issues faced by First Nations…If we don’t deal with the legacy of the Indian Act and the residential school system, this funding is only going to be reactionary in nature.”