Government of Canada signs two bilateral agreements with Nunavut for better health care, closer to home

Press Release

From: Health Canada

March 5, 2024

Canadians deserve a health care system that provides them with timely access to health services whenever and wherever they are needed, as well as the ability to age with dignity closer to home.

Today, the Honourable Mark Holland, Canada’s Minister of Health, and the Honourable John Main, Nunavut’s Minister of Health, announced two bilateral agreements to invest a total of more than $35.6 million to improve health care access and services in Nunavut.

Through the Working Together Agreement, the Government of Canada will first provide more than $23.6 million to support Nunavut’s three-year action plan to deliver improvements to its health care system. The plan will:

  • Increase coordination and access to primary care across the regions.
    • Increase the number of Inuit in health care positions through an Inuit-specific radiological technician program with 150 graduates over three years, and by enrolling five Inuit in an education and training pathway for midwifery;
    • Establish assessment tools for remote and isolated communities to help understand what communities require, based on population size and population health needs. These tools will assist in the design of primary health care teams in remote settings;
    • Expand the existing paramedic program, which was established in 2021 to support primary care programs in community health centers, to all 25 Nunavut communities. Nunavut will also establish a new paramedic practice consultant who will support the integration of paramedics into communities; and
    • Bolster Qikiqtani General Hospital in Nunavut by supporting the newly established obstetrics-gynecology program, recruiting additional surgeons, expanding cardiology services, and investing in nurse practitioner pilot programs.
  • Support recruitment, retention, and training initiatives for health workers, and help reduce backlogs.
    • Implement a comprehensive recruitment campaign to attract nurses and nurse practitioners, and enhance the Graduate Nursing Residence Program; and
    • Address orthopedic needs by purchasing a CT scanner, acquiring a portable MRI, and purchasing a C-Arm to increase in-territory medical procedures and reduce the reliance on patient travel to Ottawa, helping alleviate wait times.
  • Expand the delivery of culturally-appropriate mental health and addiction services and specialized care.
    • Support training for paraprofessionals to ensure Inuit in Nunavut can access Inuit-specific, culturally, and linguistically relevant mental health services and programs; and
    • Continue implementing annual trauma symposiums to equip frontline workers with the tools and skills needed to engage in trauma work with community members, particularly children and youth.

Through the Aging with Dignity Agreement, the Government of Canada will provide more than $12 million to support Nunavut’s five-year action plan to age with dignity close to home, with access to home care or care in a safe long-term care facility. This will:

  • Fund home and community care program reviews, expansions, and services.
    • Undertake a comprehensive review to help inform organizational changes and expansions to help recruit and train additional staff, focusing on Inuit hires, and increase service hours; and
    • Enhance workforce skills, specifically supporting nursing students, through online courses and in-person training, with the goal to provide quality care to Nunavummiut in all 25 communities, to help them maintain independence and well-being.
  • Strengthen workforce stability.
    • In collaboration with Nunavut Arctic College, continue developing a tailored Personal Support Worker program to enhance the skills of Home and Community Care Workers and Continuing Care Workers in Nunavut, while also supporting their continuing education; and
    • Enable nurse practitioners to provide virtual care for long-term care facilities.
  • Enhance long-term care standards.
    • Support Nunavut in meeting new national long-term care standards by enhancing culturally appropriate care, providing Inuit-specific counseling for residents outside the territory, and addressing organizational challenges within the Home and Continuing Care Division facilities.

Progress on these initiatives and broader commitments will be measured against targets which Nunavut will publicly report on annually.

Through these new agreements, the Government of Nunavut will work with the Government of Canada to improve how health information is collected, shared, used and reported to; streamline foreign credential recognition for internationally educated health professionals; facilitate the mobility of key health professionals within Canada; and fulfill shared responsibilities to uphold the Canada Health Act to protect Canadians’ access to health care based on need, not the ability to pay.

Recognizing the significant disparities in Inuit health outcomes, the Governments of Canada and Nunavut also commit to meaningfully engaging and working together with Inuit partners to support improved access to quality and culturally-appropriate health care services. Nunavut’s action plan is informed by continued engagement with its Inuit partners and recent trilateral discussions involving the federal government. All levels of government will approach health decisions in their respective jurisdictions through a lens that promotes respect and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

Nunavut and the federal government will continue working together to improve health services for all patients across the territory, including responding to the needs of Inuit and other underserved and disadvantaged populations.

“These agreements with Nunavut are a big step forward for our health care system. They mean better care for the people who live here, in their communities. Nunavut has its own unique needs and priorities, and these agreements will make sure Nunavummiut gets better health care throughout their lives.”

The Honourable Mark Holland
Minister of Health
“These investments will make a real difference for people in Nunavut when it comes to mental health and addiction services. We are collaborating with Nunavut to integrate mental health seamlessly into our universal health care system. Federal support will help strengthen the capacity of family healthcare providers and offer culturally informed care for timely and quality mental health and substance use support, with a particular focus on Inuit needs.”

The Honourable Ya’ara Saks
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health
“Seniors deserve to age with dignity and choice. So they can age on their terms. None of that is possible without a strong health care system. The investments we’re making in Nunavut will make it even stronger.”

The Honourable Seamus O’Regan Jr.
Minister for Seniors

“Today we celebrate the addition of over $35.6 million into Nunavut’s healthcare landscape, a move deeply rooted in the principle of ‘Pijitsirniq’—a commitment to serve our community with care and respect. This significant investment symbolizes a collective pledge to honour Nunavut’s unique heritage and address the distinct health needs of Nunavummiut.”

The Honourable John Main
Nunavut’s Minister of Health

Quick facts

  • The Working Together investment includes $25 billion for tailored bilateral agreements with provinces and territories, a guaranteed five per cent Canada Health Transfer (CHT) increase for the next five years — estimated to amount to $17.2 billion — and a one time CHT $2 billion top-up to address the urgent needs of emergency rooms and paediatric hospitals delivered in June 2023. Combined, these investments provide provinces and territories the flexibility to address the unique needs of their populations and geography, and accelerate health care system improvements.
  • Budget 2023 outlined the Government of Canada’s plan to invest close to $200 billion over 10 years, including $46.2 billion in new funding for provinces and territories, to improve health care for Canadians. Within this funding, $25 billion is allocated through tailored bilateral agreements to address the unique needs of their populations and geography in four shared health priorities:
    • expanding access to family health services, including in rural and remote areas;
    • supporting health workers and reducing backlogs;
    • increasing mental health and substance use support; and
    • modernizing health care systems with health data and digital tools.
  • As part of the Working Together bilateral agreements, provinces and territories are developing action plans that outline how funds will be spent and how progress will be measured to demonstrate to Canadians that improvements are occurring in Canada’s health care system. Nunavut’s initial three-year Action Plan can be found here.
  • Budget 2017 committed $11 billion over 10 years in federal funding to provinces and territories to improve access to home and community care, and mental health and addictions services for Canadians. Bilateral agreements were signed with provinces and territories to access the first six years of that funding. The final four years of funding for mental health and addictions are included in the new Working Together bilateral agreements.
  • The Government is also working with provinces and territories to implement a second bilateral agreement focused on helping Canadians age with dignity close to home, with access to home care or care in a safe long-term care facility. This agreement includes the remaining $2.4 billion ($600 million per year for fiscal years 2023-24 to 2026-27) over four years to improve access to home and community care from Budget 2017; and the $3 billion ($600 million per year for fiscal years 2023-24 to 2027-28) over five years for long-term care from Budget 2021 to apply standards of care in long-term care facilities and help support workforce stability. Nunavut’s five-year Action Plan can be found here.
  • Nunavut will receive an additional $150 million to support the higher cost of delivering health care in the territories, including medical travel, from the renewed $350 million (over 10 years) Territorial Health Investment Fund (THIF) that was announced in Budget 2023. The THIF provides funding for health care delivery in the North, where each territory faces high costs to provide necessary care for their residents. Territories use funding delivered through the THIF to develop and implement key health care system improvement projects in areas such as collaborative care, primary care, and health workforce and capacity building.

Associated links


Christopher Aoun
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Mark Holland
Minister of Health

Yuval Daniel
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Ya’ara Saks
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health

Media Relations
Health Canada

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