Mamadosewin (meeting place, walking together)

Indigenous Health Services

Indigenous Health Services

Indigenous Health Services

Hon. Dennis Dawson: 

Minister, I would first like to commend you for the efforts you have made to learn French since you took office. I hope you won’t mind, then, if I ask my question in French.

We know that there are major socio-economic gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in Canada. It is difficult for Indigenous people to get quality health care services that reflect their cultural reality.

Not counting the investments set out in recent budgets to improve health indicators in Indigenous communities, can the minister tell us what is being done to ensure that Indigenous communities have access to the health care they need when they need it?

Hon. Jane Philpott, P.C., M.P., Minister of Indigenous Services: I thank the honourable senator for his question. I will try to answer in French, but if that proves too difficult, I will switch back to English.

You asked a very important question regarding the major socio-economic gaps that exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, particularly in the area of health. You spoke about the investments that our department has made in health and I am pleased that investments were made in each of our government’s budgets.

As a matter of fact, we just invested $1.5 billion in health, which will be used to provide grants for research on tuberculosis and to help address a number of issues, including addictions.

As you mentioned, our department changed its approach to Indigenous health, and we hope that this new approach will improve Indigenous peoples’ quality of life. As I said, to date, the government was the one that decided how health care would be provided. However, if Indigenous peoples decide to take responsibility for their own health care system, we should see results. There has been a positive outcome in British Columbia with the First Nations Health Authority, which was created by and for Indigenous peoples. The gaps have already narrowed and their health has improved.

We are now discussing the issue in several parts of the country. A few weeks ago, on a visit to Manitoba, our department signed a memorandum of understanding on health care with the Indigenous population.

Quebec would also like to sign a memorandum of understanding with the First Nations of Quebec and our department in order to consider a service delivery model that would be run by Indigenous peoples, for Indigenous peoples. This approach dovetails with our own approach to self-determination, and we hope to achieve good results.