National Chief Welcomes Step Toward Distinctions-Based Health Legislation for First Nations

Published: Jan 28, 2021News

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde welcomes today’s announcement by Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller to engage with First Nations and Indigenous leaders to transform the health system in Canada.

Minister Miller today announced efforts toward the co-development of distinctions-based health legislation, starting with pre-engagement consultation with First Nations, Metis and Inuit taking place over the next few months.

“I welcome this initiative and step toward addressing the inequities and discrimination toward First Nations and other Indigenous peoples in Canada’s health care systems,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde, adding he is encouraged that the federal government is moving ahead on commitments from the Fall 2020 Throne Speech and Economic Statement. “Long-standing inequities, underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic, continue to result in poor health outcomes for First Nations across Canada. Any proposed process must include the rights and title holders and be grounded in First Nations control over the development and delivery of health services with priorities identified by First Nations.”

“Developing distinctions-based health legislation for First Nations must be done with the leadership at the decision-making tables from the outset. It must at the same time include the important work to enforce the treaty right to health, including implementation of the spirit and intent of the medicine chest clause,” said AFN Regional Chief Marlene Poitras who is the health portfolio lead on the AFN Executive. “This legislation must provide the basis for a health system that addresses systemic racism, is respectful of the individual needs of our people, and treated as foundational, a cornerstone of Canada’s overall healthcare system.”

In 2017 AFN Chiefs-in-Assembly passed resolution 69/2017, directing the AFN to explore a legislative base for First Nations Health that is reflective of inherent, Treaty and international legal requirements, as well at the nation to nation relationship.

The announcement comes after a two-day virtual meeting on anti-Indigenous racism in Canada’s health care systems with federal, provincial and territorial ministers and First Nations, Metis and Inuit leaders where National Chief Bellegarde reiterated recommendations and called for urgency in addressing systemic racism in Canada’s health care systems.

The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter at @AFN_Updates.

For more information please contact:
Karen Joyner
Communications Officer
Assembly of First Nations
613-292-0857 (cell)
[email protected]