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Health Watch - December, 2015


Compiled by Shari Narine







Day pledges to bring attention to national health concerns

Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day, who recently assumed responsibility for the Assembly of First Nations national health portfolio, has issued a call to action. He says health for First Nations people in Canada is deplorable and unconscionable and he will make a determined effort to raise the awareness on the crisis of First Nation health. He says following the election he and the national executive will work to secure sufficient health funding from the next federal government, which means revisiting the failed 2005 Kelowna Accord commitment of a $1.3 billion investment over five years to reduce infant mortality, youth suicide, diabetes, and obesity by 50 per cent within 10 years. The next federal government must fast-track this investment over two years, says Day, and also look at the lack of movement over the last decade and make-up for that level of investment. Also on the health priority list is addressing the current health disparities in the number of community health clinics, doctors and nurses, and addressing the increase in chronic diseases. “Not dealing with this crisis is only going to cause greater strain on Canada’s health care system, potentially pushing this matter toward more drastic measures of seeking resolve, such as litigation,” said Day in a statement.

Report condemns Aboriginal child protective services in BC

The B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union has released a report that says the province’s protection services for Aboriginal children are culturally inappropriate and inadequately funded. Closing the Circle: A Case for Reinvesting in Aboriginal Child, Youth and Family Services in British Columbia was based on feedback from child protection workers represented by the union. The report comes at a time when multiple agencies are investigating the Sept. 18 death of Alex Gervais, 18. He fell or jumped from the fourth floor window of an Abbotsford hotel where he was living for months in violation of child welfare rules. Aboriginal children represent half of those in care in B.C., even though Aboriginal people account for only five per cent of the population. “As we all know too well, the existing system is broken, and desperately needs to be fixed,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, in the foreword to this report. “Our social services system is overly complex and under resourced. It completely ignores our culture and history. It needs greater transparency and accountability.” In response to the report, Children’s Minister Stephanie Cadieux issued a statement saying her department would review the recommendations “in the context of the other work currently underway.”

CSC told to stop using standard psychological assessment

 Federal Court Justice Michael L. Phelan has ordered Correctional Services of Canada to stop using its standard psychological risk assessment on violent Aboriginal offenders. Phelan said in his ruling written Sept. 18 that Canada is lagging behind other countries in its efforts to eliminate bias. Five tests have been challenged: Hare Psychopathy Checklist Revised, Violence Risk Appraisal Guide, Sex Offender Risk Appraisal Guide, Static 99, Violence Risk Scale – Sex Offender. Simon Fraser University professor Dr. Stephen Hart testified the tests were developed without considering Aboriginal cultures or perspectives. He also said there are ways psychiatrists can analyze the tests to rule out cross-cultural bias but CSC has not done that work. It is anticipated that the decision will impact provincial jails as well as the federal system.

Unique art approach increased dialogue about cervical cancer

A pilot project that used art to open lines of communication between researchers and women about cervical cancer has seen success. Dr. Ingeborg Zehbe, who leads the Anishinaabek Cervical Cancer Screening Study, consulted with Dr. Pauline Sameshima, the Canada research chair in arts integrated studies at Lakehead University, to find innovative educational tools to promote screening for cervical cancer. Studies show that First Nations women endure notably higher rates of diagnosis and mortality due to cervical cancer as they are less likely to seek out medical care until it’s absolutely necessary. They have less access to education on health issues, and have to travel significant distances off reserve to get even limited access to health care. Sameshima integrated art into the education part of the project in an attempt to increase dialogue and communication.

Aboriginal wellness centre being considered for Yellowknife

Within days of announcing plans to build a new hospital in Yellowknife, the health minister tabled a document which suggests the territory is moving toward a separate, standalone wellness centre. The undated document says the department is “working with Stanton Territorial Health Authority to define the needs for the development of a Territorial Aboriginal Wellness Centre.” The need for the wellness centre has been identified because traditional activities can be better accommodated there than in an acute care setting. In February, the Elders’ Council at Stanton Hospital called for the development of an Aboriginal wellness centre in the city. Health minister Glen Abernethy said a wellness centre may also be a future use for the former†Nats’ejee K’eh treatment facility on the Hay River reserve.