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A Joint Statement from the FNHA and FNHC

RE: January 21 National Post Article

January 22, 2013

To BC First Nations Leadership, Health Directors and Citizens,

Yesterday, the National Post published an article titled “As B.C. readies $2.5B transfer to First Nations Health Authority, questions arise about unclear programs, missing $4M.” The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), First Nations Health Council (FNHC) and our government partners collectively refute this article.

Despite our best, and repeated, efforts to share information with the reporter, the National Post published the unfounded allegations of unnamed sources within Health Canada.  We understand that the reporter based his article on a draft internal working document that Health Canada has also publicly refuted.  This document, coupled with the highly subjective opinions of some current and past Health Canada employees forms the body of Mr. Hutchinson’s argument. We believe this is an attempt to compromise the transfer.

On Friday, January 18, Grand Chief Doug Kelly, Chair of the FNHC, Pierre Leduc, Vice-Chair of the FNHA Board of Directors, and Joe Gallagher, CEO of the FNHA, engaged in a 2.5-hour discussion with the National Post reporter, Mr. Hutchinson.  In this discussion, we described our process for community engagement, Gathering Wisdom for a Shared Journey forums, and the establishment of a new health partnership with governments.

We noted the high level of support for this work by BC First Nations – because BC First Nations have designed these processes themselves, for their communities.  We are proud of these processes. Unfortunately, the National Post chose instead to interpret this new governance approach as a simple project, failing to accurately portray the long-term, enduring nature of this tripartite health reform process, including the long-term investments that governments have made in the Tripartite First Nations Health Plan.

The National Post article is critical of spending on Community Engagement. As you know, the FNHA is not yet responsible for federal programs and services.  Our work is implementing the Health Plans. As directed by BC Chiefs, we have been developing a process for First Nations Health Governance. Our directives clearly state that this process is “Community Driven, Nation Based.” This requires investment in ongoing engagement with First Nations communities.  We continue to stand behind our approach to honour, and invest in, First Nation community decision-making. This is what makes us different from Health Canada.

It is natural for human beings to respond fearfully in the face of transformative change.  We have made significant efforts to engage the staff at Health Canada about the upcoming transfer of staff, facilities, resources and programs, and assure them of their valued place in the organization.  We will continue our efforts to implement the direction of First Nations to make this transfer a reality and we look forward to welcoming new employees into our organization.

The FNHA and FNHC stand together with our government partners on the sound finances and management practices of the organization. The FNHA has outside auditors Deloitte and Touche, who have provided a clean audit opinion on the finances of the organization. In addition, the clean reporting record of the FNHA and our ability to meet the extensive reporting requirements of the Tripartite Framework Agreement on First Nations Health speaks for itself.  We have clear and accepted workplans for funding invested in this process.  The investments in this process are long-term – and we have planned budget carry-over to strategically invest in a multi-year process. All funding has been accounted for and reconciled to the satisfaction of all parties and our outside auditors.  The tripartite partners stand firmly behind our work.  We will continue to move this work forward; we will continue to achieve successes based on agreed-upon outcomes, and our innovative work has shown many results, and will proceed.

Unfortunately, this attempt to derail the federal approval process puts the needs of a number of individuals, fearful about the upcoming transfer, above the needs of many. Health Canada has made a policy decision to transfer the Pacific Region of First Nations and Inuit Health to the FNHA, and First Nations in BC have voted to accept this new responsibility.  This process is bigger than any individual, and will not be derailed.  We will welcome all of the transferring staff, and look forward to involving them in the way that we do business, including honouring the importance of community engagement and decision-making in the process.

We will continue to keep you informed and of course, encourage you to please contact us with any questions you may have.

Lydia Hwitsum, Chair – First Nations Health Authority

Grand Chief Doug Kelly, Chair – First Nations Health Council