Dear Respected Chiefs and Leaders of the Province of BC,
The members of the Collaboration & Partnership Working Group of the First Nations Health Council are pleased to provide you this update with respect to the recent meeting of the Aboriginal Delegated Agency Directors, the Leadership Collaboration for a Social Policy Forum, as well as other work to-date.
Aboriginal Delegated Agency Directors Meeting
The CPWG and the Aboriginal Delegated Agency Directors met on January 27-28, 2015 at the Musqueam Cultural Centre, in Musqueam Territory to discuss the opportunity to work together to enhance support for children and families in First Nations communities across BC.
The session began with a traditional Coast Salish blanketing ceremony honouring the Aboriginal Delegated Agency Directors for their unwavering commitment and compassion for assisting First Nations children, families and communities while faced with the challenges of operating significantly underfunded agencies. Most of the Agency Directors had never been honoured for their work, and they expressed heartfelt appreciation for this acknowledgement.
The CPWG offered to advocate securing funding on behalf of the Agencies through a process similar to the process for health. The CPWG offered to work with the Agency Directors to develop their own structure for implementing a plan moving forward in collaboration with other partners.
This was the start of a discussion with the Agency Directors concerning opportunities to collaborate to improve the lives of First Nations children and families; while no decisions were made between the Agency Directors and the FNHC- CPWG, there was general agreement that First Nations must work together to pursue opportunities to assist our children and families.
Meeting with AANDC and Health Canada
On February 2, 2015, the CPWG Chair travelled to Ottawa to meet with the Deputy Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, as well as the Minister and Deputy Minister of Health Canada. We further discussed plans for the annual meeting between the federal Deputy Minister of AANDC and FNHC to discuss health and issues related to the social determinants of health, as agreed within the British Columbia Tripartite Agreement on First Nations Health Governance.
Leadership Collaboration for Social Policy Forum
On the morning of February 6, 2015, the Collaboration and Partnership Working Group (CPWG) of the First Nations Health Council met with members of the Leadership Collaboration for Social Policy Forum (SPF) to further the work on a long term strategy for overall wellness in our communities. The discussion focused on the work done to-date, and the future work of the Social Policy Forum in collaboration with the Provincial and Federal government partners.
Recognition that the health of our people is an outcome of all social determinants is growing among government and within our own sector councils. This is the basis for a forum that would allow for collaboration between our leaders, government, and First Nations councils.
Regional representatives voiced concern on behalf of their communities that the current situation for children and families is a priority across the province. The members present acknowledged that one of the main priorities for collaboration between the SPF and the Provincial government has to be improving the outcomes for First Nations children in this province. The SPF is in the process of developing a wellness plan for the next 10 years that will provide strategic direction for improving outcomes across all sectors in collaboration with the Provincial and Federal Government.
A discussion took place between the members of the Health Council and the SPF concerning their direction from the regional Chiefs and leaders. A portion of the Tripartite First Nations Health Plan (2007) was shared, and it summarized the direction from the regions to move forward with the work of social determinants. The selected passage from the plan reads as follows:
“Health and wellness for First Nations encompasses the physical, spiritual, mental, economic, emotional, environmental, social and cultural wellness of the individual, family and community. Although the present Plan focuses on health programs and services, it is recognized that the way forward will require a joint commitment to deal with the root causes and structural issues causing socio-economic gaps.”
In the afternoon, members of the SPF were joined by Provincial Deputy Ministers to discuss the partnership between the SPF and the ministries of BC. This discussion focused on the understanding across all sectors, communities, and governments that health is an outcome of many contributing factors, such as literacy, education, affordable housing, clean drinking water, traditional foods, traditional medicines, language, culture, and spirituality. All of these aspects of life allow First Nations people to be true to their ancestral teachings. To produce better health outcomes, the overall approach has to change. This group gathered in an attempt to work with all partners to change how the system currently works. A cross-ministry, cross-government approach to health, and other social determinants must be developed, to set very clear, high level strategic directions that will improve outcomes for First Nations people and communities.
The Provincial delegates reaffirmed their commitment to further the discussion around social determinants of health, and move forward on developing strategies to improve overall wellness. An agreement was reached to commit to quarterly meetings between the SPF and the Provincial Deputy Ministers to collaborate on this work.
Collaboration on the development of an outline regarding wellness for First Nations people and communities will be the priority in the following months. A comprehensive approach to planning the strategic work and the expected outcomes will be undertaken by the CPWG, the SPF sector councils, and the Provincial Ministries.
On behalf of the First Nations Health Council
The FNHC Collaboration & Partnership Working Group