Reconciliation in health a priority, says Canada's health minister
- Angela Hill | October 18, 2016
Reconciliation in the health system is a priority for the Canadian Ministry of Health, according to Minister Jane Philpott, in an Eagle Feather News exclusive.
“I have in general, within my portfolio, seen Indigenous health as one of my top priority areas. It’s certainly one of the areas that needs a lot of my attention and is an area where I think we have the biggest gaps in health outcomes overall,” she said.
“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations are a really good road map for reconciliation of course, but they’re also a good road map for addressing health inequities.”
While he believes this to be a positive, Ken Clement the chief executive officer for the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network says it will be a long process.
“I don’t know if it’s going to happen in my lifetime or your lifetime, but it’s a process that our government now is recognizing as the steps to ensure equity, to insure we have that place in society.”
Clement has been working alongside the health system supporting Indigenous people with HIV for decades. He said he has seen a start towards reconciliation in health care after the commission released their recommendations, but “there are a lot of examples where it’s not working.”
“We hear stories and see stories about, for example in Saskatchewan, Manitoba where there’s still those disparities.”
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The 18th call to action asks that governments at all level, “acknowledge that the current state of Aboriginal health in Canada is a direct result of previous Canadian government policies, including residential schools.”
That’s where Clement says there has been a struggle. He said that historically it has been easier for governments to turn a blind eye to the past.
“There’s a lack of sensitivity in recognition that those past practices of genocide have really impacted the health of our nations and communities,” he said.
“If we don’t look at those early impacts of colonization then we are never going to move forward as healthy nations.”
In an interview with Eagle Feather News, Philpott said the has been trying to address the health inequity and jurisdictional issues. She pointed to the government announcement this summer of $382 million to Jordan’s Principle, which ensures everyone receives timely access to care.
“It is one demonstration of saying, ‘jurisdictional issues should not stand in the way of Canadians getting the care they need,” she said.
During the International AIDS conference held this summer, Philpott met with Clement and others from the Indigenous Working Group on HIV and AIDS.
Philpott said what she found most interesting was the discussion around “traditional health practices and recognition and respecting traditional healing.”
“Care needs to be culturally appropriate, culturally safe and our access to care needs to be non-discriminatory and we also need to respect cultural practice, including traditional healing and find a way make sure that works together with modern medicine.”
This speaks to the 22nd Call to Action, 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.”
That piece is particularly important, said Clement.
“The traditional western medical models don’t work very well with our people, so we go back to the land, we go back to culture, which teaches and supports people whether they sick or whether they are well, so I think that’s where we start.”