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441-00430 (Indigenous affairs)

Paper petition

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

Whereas:

  • Canada has committed harm toward Indigenous people and communities through historical and ongoing genocide;
  • The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was published in 2015 to outline 94 calls to action that would begin "to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation";
  • Federal, provincial, and territorial governments have failed to take action on all but 8 of the calls to action in the TRC;
  • Indigenous women and girls make up 10% of the female Canadian homicide rate, while only comprising 3% of the Canadian female population;
  • Thousands of unmarked graves have been uncovered within the past year at the sites of former so-called "residential schools";
  • Indigenous individuals are more likely to live in poverty than non-Indigenous Canadians, with 25% of all Indigenous people and 40% of Indigenous children living in poverty;
  • Indigenous individuals continue to have decreased access to healthcare, education, and legal justice;
  • Indigenous children are still regularly taken from their homes and put into the child welfare system with Indigenous children accounting for approximately 50% of all children aged 0-14 in foster care while comprising less than 8% of the Canadian population in that same age group; and
  • The covid-19 pandemic continues to worsen healthcare discrepancies between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people within Canada.

We, the undersigned, citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to place the full implementation of all 94 Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action at the forefront of the political agenda, starting with the implementation of Calls to Action 18 through 24, which make up the TRC section on Indigenous health:

18. We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to acknowledge that the current state of Aboriginal health in Canada is a direct result of previous Canadian government policies, including residential schools, and to recognize and implement the health-care rights of Aboriginal people as identified in international law, constitutional law, and under the Treaties;

19. We call upon the federal government, in consultation with Aboriginal peoples, to establish measurable goals to identify and close the gaps in health outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities, and to publish annual progress reports and assess long-term trends. Such efforts would focus on indicators such as: infant mortality, maternal health, suicide, mental health, addictions, life expectancy, birth rates, infant and child health issues, chronic diseases, illness and injury incidence, and the availability of appropriate health services;

20. In order to address the jurisdictional disputes concerning Aboriginal people who do not reside on reserves, we call upon the federal government to recognize, respect, and address the distinct health needs of the Métis, Inuit, and offreserve Aboriginal peoples;

21. We call upon the federal government to provide sustainable funding for existing and new Aboriginal healing centres to address the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual harms caused by residential schools, and to ensure that the funding of healing centres in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories is a priority;

22. We call upon those who can effect change within the Canadian health-care system to recognize the value of Aboriginal healing practices and use them in the treatment of Aboriginal patients in collaboration with Aboriginal healers and Elders where requested by Aboriginal patients;

23. We call upon all levels of government to (i) increase the number of Aboriginal professionals working in the health-care field, (ii) ensure the retention of Aboriginal health-care providers in Aboriginal communities, (iii) Provide cultural competency training for all health-care professionals; and

24. We call upon medical and nursing schools in Canada to require all students to take a course dealing with Aboriginal health issues, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, and Indigenous teachings and practices. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.

Response by the Minister of Indigenous Services and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): VANCE BADAWEY

The Government of Canada is committed to advancing reconciliation through a nation-to-nation, Inuit-Crown, and Government-to-Government approach with First Nations, Inuit and Metis Peoples , based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership. Implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action is a vital part of this commitment and is a top priority for the Government of Canada. As the Prime Minister said, there is no relationship more important to Canada than that with Indigenous Peoples in Canada. To demonstrate this, each Minister in Cabinet has been tasked to prioritize their work with Indigenous Peoples and consider how their mandate letter commitments support self-determination and advance reconciliation. While there is still much work to be done to respond fully to the health and wellness-related Calls to Action (Calls to Action 18 through 24), here is a summary of recent progress that Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) has made:

CTA #18 - ISC, with the support of Health Canada (HC) and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC), has led three National Dialogues on addressing anti-Indigenous racism in Canada’s health systems. These National Dialogues and further engagement with partners has provided an opportunity for the federal government, provincial and territorial governments, National Indigenous Organization representatives, Indigenous health professionals, and health system partners to discuss the history and current state of Indigenous health and pursue collective actions to address anti-Indigenous racism in Canada’s health systems.

In response to the recommendations from the National Dialogues and other key reports, the Government of Canada invested $126.7 million over three years, starting in 2021-22, to address anti-Indigenous racism in Canada’s health systems. Funding supports a range of initiatives aimed at improving access to culturally safe services, adapting health systems, supporting the integration of cultural and patient safety, and enhancing accountability. ISC, along with health system partners, is currently developing a longer-term national approach to anti-Indigenous racism in Canada’s health systems. In addition, ISC is leading the co-development of distinctions-based Indigenous health legislation, which is a collaborative approach that recognizes the right to self-determination. Engagement on the co-development of distinctions-based Indigenous health legislation is being led primarily by First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation partners at the national, regional and sub-regional levels. ISC is also hosting engagement sessions, including targeted outreach to Indigenous women's organizations, urban Indigenous, 2SLGBTQQIA+, youth organizations and more.

CTA #19 - ISC and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) have initiated work with Indigenous organizations including the First Nations Information Governance Centre and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK). These organizations, together with their regions, are currently exploring the development of an information strategy, as well as a set of indicators that will identify gaps in health outcomes and that can be routinely reported. An online Health Inequalities Data Tool has been released that explores data using different measures of inequality by topic and population of interest. In addition, Budget 2021 provided $597.6 million over 3 years, starting in 2021 to 2022, for a distinctions-based mental health and wellness strategy with First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation. The strategy will renew funding for the Indian Residential Schools Health Supports Program and Crisis Line, which provide healing supports for survivors of childhood trauma and residential schools. It will also enhance community-based supports and capacity, increase substance use treatment and prevention, and support workforce development. 

CTA #20 - ISC plays a key role in addressing the distinct health needs of Indigenous Peoples, including by working with Indigenous communities to address COVID-19 public health needs and support public health response. First Nations communities and organizations are eligible for funding to support community-led pandemic responses, to increase primary health care, and surge capacity. Specific to First Nations and Inuit children, over 3,500 requests for items and products, services and supports related to COVID-19 were approved for a total of $9.5 million under Jordan’s Principle between March 20, 2020 and May 2021. For the Inuit Child First Initiative, over 140 requests for items and products, services and supports related to COVID-19 were approved for approximately $685,000. To ensure the appropriate funding is coordinated and targeted to address pandemic-related public health gaps and needs in Indigenous communities and Indigenous populations, ISC continues to work with federal (PHAC), national (e.g. Assembly of First Nations and ITK) and regional Indigenous partners, as well as provinces and territories to support COVID-19 public health measures for Indigenous communities and groups.

CTA #21 - In collaboration with the Government of Nunavut and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, ISC has provided funding to support the construction and operation of the Nunavut Recovery Centre. ISC continues to support the Government of the Northwest Territories and Indigenous organizations in initiatives and programming that address healing and trauma caused by residential schools. Since 2018-2019, ISC has invested $6.5 million into the construction of a new healing center in Kuujjuaq, Nunavik. The new Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Center will provide culturally appropriate addiction treatment services, including services for families in the healing process to lessen the impact of substance abuse on couples, pregnant women, and families with children. Due to the pandemic, construction has been delayed but the opening is still scheduled for 2022 or 2023.

CTA #22 - On June 29, 2021, the Minister of ISC detailed Budget 2021 investments related to Aboriginal healing practices and treatment including:

$33.3 million to improve access to culturally safe services, with a focus on services for Indigenous women, 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, people with disabilities and other marginalized groups who may experience intersecting discrimination. More specifically, this will support the expansion of Indigenous midwives and doulas initiatives, strengthen funding for Indigenous women’s organizations and regional and grassroots organizations and support youth sexual health networks.

$46.9 million to support the adaptation of health systems through the integration of cultural and patient safety at the local and systems levels. This work will be supported through ISC’s Cultural Safety Partnership Fund and HC’s new Addressing Racism and Discrimination in Canada’s Health Systems Program. This funding will also contribute to increased Indigenous representation in health professions through training and education programs.

ISC continues to support Indigenous midwifery demonstration and development projects, and works closely with partners to improve culturally safe access to Indigenous midwifery. Three demonstration projects are currently underway in First Nation communities in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. These projects have focused on cultural teachings, training for doulas, and provincial advocacy for more training opportunities for midwives. A fourth project is currently planned for Inuit Nunangat with additional development projects also underway in the Atlantic, Ontario, Quebec and Northern regions. In addition to this work to improve culturally safe services, ISC is currently engaged with the Assembly of First Nations in a Joint Review of the Non-Insured Health Benefits Program, specifically a recommendation to develop a process and criteria for coverage of mental health counselling services provided to Non-Insured Health Benefits clients by traditional healers and Elders. 

CTA #23 - ISC has undertaken various outreach initiatives to increase Indigenous representation in the delivery of healthcare services. Initiatives include job fairs, social media outreach, paid advertising and on-going engagement with educational institutions to support Indigenous students’ access and participation in health-care programs. Also, since January 2020, a new ISC- First Nations and Inuit Health Branch policy was introduced requiring ISC management and employees at all levels and to complete the equivalent of 2 days (15 hours) of Indigenous cultural competency learning on an annual basis. Further to the 15 hours of required annual training, each region has additional regionally focused cultural competency training for their healthcare professionals.

Further, improving access to Indigenous healing practices and treatment now includes patient advocates, health system navigators and cultural safety training for medical professionals. These are current initiatives that have come from a recent Government of Canada investment of $126.7 million over 3 years, beginning in 2021 to 2022 to take action to foster health systems free from racism and discrimination where Indigenous Peoples are respected and safe.

CTA #24 - While all medical and nursing schools in Canada are responsible for the response to Call to Action #24, to address the funding needs for this Call, the Federal Government is providing $354 million over five years through Budget 2021, to increase the number of nurses and other medical professionals in remote and isolated First Nations communities. Nationally, ISC has undertaken various outreach initiatives to increase the awareness of nursing employment within First Nation communities, with concentrated efforts on increasing Indigenous representation in the delivery of healthcare services.

The Government of Canada is committed to fulfilling its mandate to support and empower Indigenous Peoples to independently deliver services and address the socio-economic conditions in their communities. Supporting this self-determination, through the initiatives noted above, and the numerous other initiatives of ISC, will hopefully lead to better health and social outcomes for Indigenous Peoples and address the deplorable legacy of colonialism in Canada.

Of the 76 federally-led or shared Calls to Action, 18 are complete, 47 are well underway, and 11 are in the planning phase. Updated information on the status of all 76 federal-led Calls to Action can be found at:

https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1524494530110/1557511412801.

Presented to the House of Commons
Mike Morrice (Kitchener Centre)
May 10, 2022 (Petition No. 441-00430)
Government response tabled
June 17, 2022
Photo - Mike Morrice
Kitchener Centre
Green Party Caucus
Ontario

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