The newly announced federal budget has made drastic funding cuts to organizations that promote the well-being of Aboriginal peoples health in Canada.
Two organizations affected are the National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO) and the Native Women’s Association of Canada’s (NWAC) women’s health programing. NAHO will lose all of its funding and will cease all operations by June 30, 2012, while NWAC will lose it’s funding for health programing aimed at bettering the health of Aboriginal women across Canada.
For the past 12 years, NAHO has been in operation where it has completed over 200 health reports, guides and fact sheets; video footage and audio tapes of Aboriginal Elders’ Indigenous knowledge; completed the only publicly available databases on Métis health; issued 12 volumes of the Journal of Aboriginal Health; and holds thousands of copies of research files and holdings.
NAHO employs over 30 specialists in health care research and knowledge translation and has holdings of over $60 million in knowledge-based research to improve health outcomes for First Nations, Inuit and Métis in Canada.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Stan Beardy stated that although the federal government announced increased funding for specific First Nation priorities like housing and infrastructure, “this budget signals that the federal government is hearing us but not really listening. The investments in First Nations are a good start, but it does not adequately address the shortfalls that plague our communities,” Beardy said.
Beardy also noted that, “With cuts to the Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) budget, the government needs to examine its own bureaucracy, while at the same time ensure that vital services and programs are maintained.”
The Native Women’s Association of Canada said it is distressed about its funding cuts because few people in the world are in greater need of human rights protection than Indigenous peoples, especially Native women.
“Although governments have a duty and responsibility to ensure the welfare and safety of all their citizens, Indigenous peoples are often the target of policies designed to erode or suppress their rights and distinct cultural identities,” said NWAC President Jeannette Corbiere Lavell.
“NWAC has worked tirelessly for more than 30 years to address shameful inequities that continue to plague Aboriginal women’s health in Canada. Aboriginal women are the least healthy and suffer the greatest chronic health conditions than any other segment of Canadian society,” Lavell said. Health Canada has stated it is necessary to make the cuts in order to preserve direct services to First Nations living on reserve. But according to NWAC currently 70 per cent of Aboriginal women live off reserve, in urban or rural areas.
In a recent statement, Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq cited “governance challenges” as other reasons for funding cuts in Aboriginal health programing.
“Health Canada worked with NAHO in an attempt to resolve these issues but, unfortunately, they were not addressed,” Aglukkaq said.
Despite the cuts, Aglukkaq’s office said it will protect frontline health care services and continue to make what it calls “major investments” in aboriginal health, nursing and research.
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