“Are native leaders ready to be part of the solution?” Yes, Mr. Gary Mason, BC Chiefs and leaders are already part of the solution. BC Chiefs set aside anger and acted to improve the health outcomes of their communities in British Columbia. Chiefs tasked the First Nations Health Council to lead the way in creating healthier individuals, families, and communities. British Columbians and Canadians alike need to know about this success story.
With patience, understanding, and forgiveness, negotiators for Canada, the Province of BC, and the First Nations Health Council reached the “British Columbia Tripartite Framework Agreement on First Nation Health Governance” on October 13, 2011. This historic agreement set out a plan to transfer the Pacific Region of First Nations Inuit Health Branch to the First Nations Health Authority. On October 1, 2013, Health Canada completed the transfer. The First Nations Health Authority now delivers health services to BC First Nations and Aboriginal peoples.
Today, BC Chiefs and the First Nations Health Council work as partners with the Government of Canada and the Province of BC. Through good faith negotiations, Canada, BC, the First Nations Health Council, and the Regional Health Authorities created partnership tables for joint decision-making. As healthy partners, we take decisions together to improve health services and wellness outcomes. With help from our partners, the First Nations Health Council is working to achieve our vision statement – “Healthy, Self-Determining, and Vibrant BC First Nations Children, Families, and Communities.”
In 1867, the federal government believed that the Indigenous population could not manage their own affairs. Parliament created its first sacred cow, colonial thinking, and passed the Indian Act. This racist act created small reserves to open up Indian Lands for development and made Indian peoples wards of the government. The dysfunction resulting from these assimilation policies affects the lives of First Nations today. The Indian Act and Residential Schools evolved into the 60’s scoop, and now the Millennium Scoop. Today, there are more First Nations children in care than at the height of the residential school system. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond called the current federal and provincial policy framework for First Nations Children and Families – a “public policy fiasco.”
BC Chiefs and leaders are looking beyond this painful past, to seek healthier individuals, families, and communities. Informed by the dark outcomes of colonial thinking, BC Chiefs seek community-based approaches that increase First Nations’ decision-making, improve services, and fosters partnership.
Colonial thinking, assimilation policies, and racism eroded the self-determination from First Nations individuals, families, and communities – resulting in poor wellness outcomes. Through our new health governance structure, we took self-determination back. Through leadership wellness campaigns like “beefy chiefs” – individuals are retaking their personal responsibility for personal wellness.
In the Tripartite Agreement of October 13, 2011, the partners committed to an Annual Meeting of Deputy Ministers. The First Nations Health Council is working with BC Deputy Ministers to develop a strategy and plan to improve wellness outcomes. We will include children and families, housing, and environment. Building upon our success in health, we will create healthy partnerships that result in shared decision-making between Chiefs and other BC Ministries. As we did with the Regional Health Authorities, we see on the ground partnerships between Chiefs in the regions and their regional service providers. Through partnerships, we will achieve shared decision-making and thus realize improved outcomes.
In 2011, BC Chiefs took action to create a better world for our children and grandchildren. Yes, indeed Mr. Mason, we will smash sacred cows. We will begin by smashing colonial thinking.
Grand Chief Doug Kelly,
Chair, First Nations Health Council
Editorial in response to the Gary Mason “Are native leaders ready to be part of the solution?”article.