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B.C. First Nations make landmark decision on health care

by Trevor Kehoe


First Nations in B.C. have passed a historic resolution to take better control of their health and wellness, voting to govern health service delivery from the federal government.

The decision has been years in the making and now credits them with being the first aboriginal group in Canada to take such steps.

The resolution will give the First Nations Health Council (FNHC) a strong mandate to work with provincial and federal health authorities through a Tripartite Framework Agreement on First Nation health governance.

On May 26, 146 of 167 Chiefs in attendance voted to move forward on a resolution that will provide new opportunities for communities across the province to cater to their specific health care needs.

“There are a number of things we have been concerned about with the current health care system with respect to health outcomes in situations where we have to rely on a wide spectrum of federal, provincial and local agencies in a way that is not integrated but disintegrated,” said Grand Chief Doug Kelly, chair of the FNHC.

“The policies are made in Ottawa and the decisions are made in Victoria. It’s easier for us to design a program that will work for us, taking that authority from Health Canada.”

The new health governance arrangement will have a number of components that aim to make key changes including a new governance structure for health services and funding commitments for the transfer of federal health programs and services.

A shared vision and agenda includes the development of a political Health Partnership Accord and a transfer of First Nations and Inuit Health B.C. region operations to the FNHC, opening the door for greater input into their health care system.

First Nations from the North, Interior, Fraser, Vancouver Coastal and Vancouver Island regions will now collaborate closer with a more unified approach in educating and empowering their people.

The agreement will set out a detailed stage approach over a number of years to transfer federal programs and services monitored by a five-year implementation committee.

The new FNHC will take part in planning, designing, managing, funding and delivering health programs to better meet their needs

Over 120 regional and sub-regional meetings were held with information rolled into five documents and consolidated into a single consensus paper.

“This initiative is community driven and First Nations based,” said Kelly.

“It creates space for effective partnerships using current infrastructure in place as well as generating our own opportunities.”

Kelly said they are now waiting for the Federal Government to review and ratify the agreement while they work on contract negotiations and other binding agreements.

The effort has been underway since 2005 when the Transformative Change Accord was signed between the First Nations Leadership Council, the feds and the province committing to establish new relationships based on respect as well as a 10-year plan to bridge the socio-economic outcomes between nations and other British Columbians in the areas of education, housing, economic opportunities and health.

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