The federal government, Ontario and Nishnawbe Aski Nation have signed an agreement which they say will transform the response to urgent health needs in First Nations communities.
The Charter of Relationship Principles Governing Health System Transformation in NAN Territory was announced Monday afternoon in Ottawa.
The announcement was made after representatives of the three parties met to discuss the delivery of health care in the wake of health crises in remote communities, in particular a continuing rash of youth suicides over the last several months.
The meeting was attended by federal health minister Jane Philpott, Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins and NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler.
In a joint news release, they said the objective of the charter is to create stronger accountability for outcomes.
The agreement sets out common objectives and commits to designing innovative solutions that support First Nations-driven health systems.
In concrete terms, the news release states, the charter will support the alignment of federal and provincial resources in addressing the health priorities of NAN communities. As an example, it will create a process to review the urgent health needs identified by NAN in order to prioritize actions.
The charter is accompanied by a plan that documents and tracks investments, outcomes and actions.
The parties said a "transformation action plan" which is still in development will lead to a more comprehensive and effective prevention, response and recovery strategy for affected communities.
Philpott said improving health and mental wellness requires an approach that creates long-term solutions. She described the charter as "the roadmap to meeting the needs and priorities of NAN First Nations, and restoring hope and self-determination."
Fiddler said NAN was pleased to sign the charter, adding that it's important to shift the health system from crisis response by reorganizing structural accountabilities, responsibilities and resource allocations in order to bring improved outcomes. He said "realignment will lead to community-driven health transformation, and is a move towards reconciliation."
According to Hoskins, the charter is "a historic step" towards transforming Indigenous health care so that priorities and solutions are community-led. Hoskins said Ontario is committed to working with First Nations with the aim of strengthening their role in the authority, design and delivery of appropriate health care.
It was also announced Monday that the two governments will each contribute $150,000 toward the cost of holding a NAN health summit this fall.