First Nations need control of Public Health: Beaucage

WINNIPEG, June 10 – John Beaucage, candidate for the office of National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is concerned over the lack of public health infrastructure in First Nations communities in light of the outbreak of H1N1 influenza that has embattled a First Nation community in Manitoba. Beaucage is calling for additional investment in health care, public health and the consolidation of First Nations health services to better serve the needs of First Nations citizens across Canada.”First Nations need to take a stronger role in the future of health care in their communities. We can no longer be dependant on the Crown for our well-being,” said Beaucage. “Health Canada is failing First Nations people.”

More than 200 people from St. Theresa’s Point First Nation have fallen ill since last week. The majority of their citizens are being treated in the community, however two young children have recently been hospitalized. A tremendous strain is being put on the First Nations, the health care system and Manitoba public health.

“My heart goes out to the people who are recovering from this flu, and the families of those who are caring for them,” added Beaucage. “The situation in Manitoba is indicative of a greater issue. This outbreak could have been prevented if there was proper support to the leadership of this community, and if the public health system was managed by First Nations themselves,” said Beaucage.

As a part of his 10-point Framework for “A New AFN”, Beaucage suggests the need for a complete overhauling of First Nations Health Services, “through integration of federal/provincial/local health programs, a renewed focus on prevention and chronic disease management, a renewed focus on nutrition and exercise, and implementing systemic health indicators to measure success.”

However, First Nations public health needs a special focus and will be a priority in his first days in office, if elected.

Beaucage acknowledges the work that has been done in recent years around pandemic planning, and praises the efforts of local First Nations health professionals. But he states that this must be controlled by First Nations.

“Currently, the government funds and administers First Nations health services through cost control measures and funding formulas. Our health care can be greatly improved by local control, and through the integration of health support and funding from all levels with a focus on improving health outcomes,” added Beaucage. “We should measure success by how many lives are saved, not how many dollars are saved.”

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is the National organization representing First Nations in Canada. There are over 630 First Nation communities in Canada. The elected Chiefs from each First Nation will cast their vote to elect the National Chief in Calgary, Alberta on July 22, 2009.

John Beaucage is a citizen of Wasauksing First Nation, and served as Grand Council Chief of the 42 member First Nations of the Anishinabek Nation in Ontario from 2004-2009. He received an honourary doctorate of letters from Nipissing University on June 5.

For further information: Marci Becking, Communications Advisor, Cell Ph: (705) 494-0735, Ph: (705) 497-9127 Ext. 2290, E-mail:

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