The release of the Romanow report on the future of Canada’s health care was positively received by the Canadian population. The infusion of fiscal resources into our health care is always positive.
But the report was not specific in identifying how much of the $15 billion is going to be invested in aboriginal health.
Treaty #3 Grand Chief Leon Jourdain said the Romanow report echoed the many similar summaries as provided from the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People.
“The RCAP provided many recommendations to improve the quality of living of First Nations people,” he noted. “But many issues still remain outstanding because there is no political will and no investment of fiscal resources to implement those recommendations.”
The big question is: where is the money going to come from? And most importantly, is there “political will” to implement the recommendations?
The report was unclear in its direction for change in the new approach to aboriginal health.
The Romanow report outlined a direction for change in which they make recommendations to consolidate aboriginal health funding from all sources. Grand Chief Jourdain urged caution in the definition and interpretation of this recommendation.
Is aboriginal health services planned on being off-loaded to the provinces? Current structures that exist in Ontario with the Aboriginal Healing and Wellness Strategy are an example of “pooling” or consolidation, of health services for aboriginal people.
This structure is not ideal and is a recipe for disaster. Aboriginal control and direction continues to be “wrestled’ away from the people that live in First Nation communities; those are the people that really “suffer.”
The federal government needs to be reminded of its fiduciary responsibility to aboriginal people and perhaps the federal government’s role of trustee to aboriginal people in Canada.
The government’s term for its role when it comes to aboriginal health care as “payer of last resort” in the absence of constitutional or treaty obligation is subject to debate and again a question of interpretation.
Grand Council Treaty #3 still would like to see mechanisms in place to ensure aboriginal people are involved in the implementation of the recommendations.
Romanow also recommended ensuring ongoing input from aboriginal peoples into the direction and design of health care services in their communities.
We are pleased with this recommendation. We believe aboriginal people need to be involved at the decision-making level—we no longer will settle for “token” aboriginal representation on regional health boards and hospital boards where we have no decision-making authority.
Our people need to start being viewed and treated like all other citizens.