Investing in and delivering better health care for First Nations in British Columbia
I want to begin by thanking the Squamish Nation, Chief Khelsilem and Council for having us on your land today. I want to acknowledge Chief Wayne Sparrow of Musqueam First Nation and Chief Jen Thomas of Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, who are also here with us today. Wade, Wayne, Colleen, Richard: thank you for your words, your leadership, and all the work you do as part of the First Nations health in B.C.
Regional Chief Teegee, it was great speaking with you earlier. National Chief Archibald—Roseanne—great to see you too, and all of you here. As Wayne pointed out—awkward to stand with my back to you—but know that we’re also speaking to millions of Canadians across the country who are deeply inspired by what has been done here in B.C., and very much hoping to be able to move forward and draw on the incredible work you’ve done over decades to get to this, and also the work that you’ve done over the past decade in making a First Nations Health Authority and Council a reality that is leading the way in this country in tangible ways on reconciliation that is hugely important. So, I’m glad to be here with you, look forward to hearing your stories in a little bit. But we’ll continue to make sure that all Canadians are hearing about the extraordinary work done here today.
I also want to extend a special thank you to Elizabeth Ross and Melina Joseph for including me—and the entire community—for including me in the blanketing ceremony we had earlier. It was a true privilege to learn from your teachings and for this community to let me be a part of the ceremony recognizing the renewal of this historic agreement.
I couldn’t help but reflect as well on the fact that, for decades and generations, the idea of a prime minister joining in this ceremony as a participant, being able to learn from the traditions, and gain a deep, deep appreciation by being part of momentous moments, not just in this community and this province, but momentous importance moments for this country that are shaped and led by the communities themselves, was really important.
I think Patty did an extraordinary job of sharing how much this matters. And Patty, I do want to thank you for all the dedication and energy that you bring. When we first met, before politics, I recognized in you the incredible devotion to building better communities. Your work in Thunder Bay, in extremely difficult social circumstances and conditions for so many of the residents, is something that you have brought to a larger scale without losing your personal compassion and connection with people that leaves, not just this government, but this country so much better for your work and service.
Thank you, my dear friend.
Thank you, too, to the community that also welcomed us today. Taking part in traditional, cultural practices helps to guide the important work that we must do together.
Earlier today, in that ceremony alongside elders, young people, and other First Nations communities from across B.C., we heard from witnesses who talked about how they seen this agreement work in their communities and what improvements they know we still have to move forward on. A decade ago, the Government of Canada transferred control over federally funded First Nations health programs and services in British Columbia to a province-wide First Nations-led organization: the First Nations Health Authority. This has transformed how health care is delivered to First Nations in B.C. It’s about self-determination. It’s about ensuring decisions that impact the health of First Nations will be made by First Nations.
It’s been a decade of learning an awful lot, and it’s important for our government that we continue to hear from you about what is working and what we can and must do to improve outcomes. So today, we are announcing the renewal of the 10-year Canada funding agreement with the First Nations Health Authority in British Columbia. It will continue to support the FNHA in their work to design, manage, and deliver and fund First Nations health care in over 200 First Nations communities here in this province.
This renewal is about improving delivery and meeting the unique health needs of First Nations communities, things like more community-based approaches to health care; recognition of the intergenerational trauma that impacts well-being in your communities; innovative mental health and wellness care; work to continue to address those social determinants of health; and ensuring that as First Nations, you can have access to culturally safe care on your land and in your language. As part of all this, we will keep working to strengthen our tripartite agreements so that First Nations get quality health care, no matter what health care system they use.
This funding and the renewal of the 10-year agreement with the First Nations Health Authority in British Columbia have improved health outcomes and strengthened the communities’ self-determination.
The FNHA model here in B.C. is the first of its kind in Canada. It is a model for how we can support the transformation of First Nations health from coast to coast to coast. Similar initiatives are underway: in Nova Scotia, through the Tajikeimik, the newly established Mi’kmaw Health Authority; in Ontario, the Nishnawbe Aski Nation; and also, work is ongoing in Manitoba and in Quebec.
This work is in addition to the many measures we are taking to close the health care gap faced by Indigenous Peoples. Since 2015, we have made unprecedented major investments.
And through our recent budget, we’re making historic investments to strengthen health care for everyone in Canada, including a very specific $2-billion Indigenous Health Equity Fund to support First Nations, Inuit, and Métis partners in closing health care gaps. We’ll keep moving forward on Joyce’s principle, because every Indigenous person deserves equal access and quality health care, free from racism and discrimination.
And we will continue to invest in Jordan’s principle to ensure that Indigenous children receive the health care they need. With today’s announcement, we are supporting your vision for better health care.
Today’s announcement is about making sure that First Nations in Canada have the best possible health outcomes, and we know this is only possible if we work together in collaboration and cooperation. The work we did together between governments paved the way for this work to happen. We need this type of collaboration and cooperation right across the country so that we can ensure that First Nations have their voices heard and can lead on health care in their own communities.
In renewing this deal, we’re also continuing the important work of renewing Canada’s relationship with First Nations and with all Indigenous Peoples, so thank you for being here today.
(Speaks in Indigenous language)