Chiefs: Set the Table for National Transformative Change

COAST SALISH TERRITORY, VANCOUVER, Oct. 19, 2017 – First Nations community Chiefs, health leads and policy makers across the country have called for the transformation of health and social services. This work cannot wait.

Recently, in words and actions, the federal government has expressed an interest in renovating the creaky old structures of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) and changing the way business is organized in Ottawa. This has included the commitment to evolve federal services, traditionally packaged and delivered through INAC, with the creation of a new Ministry of Indigenous Services.

While many First Nations leaders are cautiously optimistic, a shift in thinking at the federal level is a promising sign.

At the same time, the importance of our provincial partners cannot be understated. Increasingly our people are living away from home and accessing services through provincial authorities and agencies. We commend those provincial partners who are at the table with us and look forward to others creating space for First Nations decision-making at these tables. We urge those provincial partners who are early on this journey to build these relationships.

As we examine our transformation objectives in our work ahead, we are keen to advance the inward journey, taking stock of our strengths and challenges that will define our health systems to improve First Nations quality of life, today and into the future.

With open and willing partners and an opportunity before us, we must ask ourselves as individual First Nations communities, how are we preparing to initiate and lead the change needed to take the decisions and the responsibilities in our communities and territories?

In the diversity of Indigenous communities across Canada, there is no one-size-fits-all model. The inherent right of self-determination for First Nations communities in Canada provides the ability to take decisions that are the best for their people – including governance of health service delivery that is best suited to their territory.

Self-determination is both individual and institutional – the ability to influence decisions that impact your life and community is a determinant of health. This includes the ability to identify and invest in community priorities, and for the flexibility to respond with traditional and cultural approaches when called for.

Transforming health services is just the beginning. First Nations community leaders, caregivers and academics recognize that our ability to have quality housing, reliable employment, formal and traditional education, and healthy territories to sustain our physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional needs contributes to our health and wellness.

Moving beyond colonialism, it is clear that decisions that will impact our communities need to be made by our communities. This includes having the hard conversations amongst ourselves as Chiefs and leaders, weighing decisions together, and building the kind of consensus needed to engage with federal and provincial governments to achieve results for our citizens. This is true for communities at the local, regional, provincial and national level.

This week the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs Committee on Health is being hosted by the BC First Nations Health Council and First Nations Health Authority for a two-day learning tour. We as First Nations are working together. As Chiefs, we are organizing and preparing for the opportunities ahead.

As the Hopi prophecy states, “We are the ones that we have been waiting for.” We may have regional, cultural, and territorial differences but what unites us is the need to initiate and sustain long-lasting, effective and transformational change in our territories and for those of our members that live outside our communities.

For further information: Media Contact: First Nations Health Council, 604-831-4898


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