TORONTO – The Anishinabek Nation is supporting a First Nations-specific approach to health-care programs being delivered to its citizens in Ontario.
Grand Council Chief John Beaucage joined a delegation of First Nations leaders who presented the First Nations-Ontario Health Accord at Queens Park Thursday.
“A jointly agreed upon Health Accord is consistent with both the government-to-government relationship, the government’s policy of a New Approach to Aboriginal Affairs and ensures the continued protection of our aboriginal and treaty rights,” he said.
The proposed Health Accord concept was endorsed by all First Nations in Ontario on February 10, 2006, and offers the province a “single-window” approach to dealing with First Nations governments in the areas of health and healing. It addresses First Nations concerns that the pan-aboriginal approach to administering First Nations and Métis programs is no longer acceptable.
Beaucage expressed disappointment that, since the McGuinty government instituted its New Approach to Aboriginal Affairs policy in June 2005, First Nations, Métis and even non-governmental service providers have been dealt with in a “homogenous” way.
“The use of the term ‘aboriginal’ has concerned all First Nations people,” he said. “This new government policy and this homogenous term has been used as a “catch-all” to deal with First Nations and Métis issues. To group all aboriginal people in Ontario together, and refuse to deal with First Nations on a government-to-government basis is to show disrespect to our people.”
First Nations leaders from across the province met with The Hon. Sandra Pupatello, Minister of Community and Social Services, after learning that The Hon. George Smitherman, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, and The Hon. Mary Anne Chambers, Minister of Children and Youth Services both backed out of the scheduled meeting at the last minute.
Discussions centred around concerns of the provincial Aboriginal Healing and Wellness Strategy (AHWS), an initiative that funds various community health and family violence programs across Ontario. First Nations leaders contend that Ontario’s policy in dealing with AHWS is not consistent with a true government-to-government relationship.
“Although there have been some successes, the continuation of the Aboriginal Healing and Wellness Strategy in its current form is no longer acceptable,” Beaucage told the meeting. ” From our perspective, significant change is needed.” He agreed with Minister Pupatello about the need for increased accountability for health-care programs serving First Nations citizens and for First Nations to have a greater say on the design, delivery and evaluation of them.
First Nations leaders also used the meeting to raise concerns about the controversial Bill 36, the Local Health Systems Integration Act, designed to establish 14 Local Health Integration Networks across the province to oversee health care delivery. They maintain that First Nations specific needs, interests, and rights have been ignored to date in the legislative process.
The Anishinabek Nation incorporated the Union of Ontario Indians as its secretariat in 1949. The UOI is a political advocate for 42 member First Nations across Ontario. The UOI is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.