By Rita Button
Part of living together respectfully is to share the health care system equitably. Truth and Reconciliation, Calls to Action published by the University of Manitoba, 2015 identifies the ways in which Aboriginal people should be treated to redress the unjust practices under which they have suffered. Hence, the Committee has called upon the Canadian Government to “recognize and implement the health-care rights of Aboriginal people as identified in international law, constitutional law, and under the Treaties.” (p.30)
To accomplish this goal, the Committee calls upon the federal government to identify the differences in health care between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities. Identifying and publishing measurable goals along with annual progress reports will allow assessments in areas such as but not limited to maternal health, addictions, mental health, suicides, and appropriate health services. Addressing health needs includes looking after Metis, Inuit, and off-reserve Aboriginal peoples.
To reach this goal, the federal government should ensure that sustainable funding is provided and that new Healing Centres are established to deal with health issues, including those caused by residential schools, making sure that funding for Nunavut and the Northwest Territories is a priority.
Recognizing the value of Aboriginal healing practices and using them with Aboriginal Healers and Elders when requested by Aboriginal patients should become common practice. To meet this goal, all levels of government should increase the number of Aboriginal health care professionals, ensure that Aboriginal providers are continuously available in Aboriginal communities, provide cultural competency training for all health-care professionals, and for all Canadian medical and nursing schools to create and deliver a mandatory course dealing with Aboriginal health issues including the history of the residential schools. “Skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights and anti-racism” (p. 34) is necessary in order for true reconciliation to occur.
All information and quotations originate from the publication Truth and Reconciliation, Calls to Action, from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, 2015.