Call to Action to end Violence against Aboriginal Women and Girls
In Ottawa, on February 27, 2015, First Nations leaders met with provincial government representatives and federal ministers Bernard Valcourt (Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Canada) and Kellie Leitch (Labour & Status of Women). At this first National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, the families talked about their daughters, sisters, and mothers. The families demanded justice and action from governments.
Ernie Crey, Cheam Councillor, has been a vocal advocate for Murdered and Missing Aboriginal women. MARR Minister John Rustad invited Ernie to attend the national roundtable. Ernie was unable to attend due to unforeseen circumstances- Minister Rustad briefed Ernie upon his return to BC.
Ernie conveyed that he felt encouraged that the National Roundtable took place. However, he expressed concern that the governments seemed to be struggling with next steps. Ernie felt hopeful that the commitment for annual meetings would create the space for long overdue action. During our discussion, Ernie encouraged me as the FNHC Chair to take a leadership role in helping the government. I informed Ernie about the commitment for annual FNHC meetings with federal and provincial Deputy Ministers and about our progress with BC Deputy Ministers. Ernie was informed that FNHC is working to organize our first meeting with federal Deputy Ministers.
On March 11, 2015, I attended a “Circle of Leaders Gathering – Call to Action to End Violence against Aboriginal Women and Girls.” Chief Charlene Belleau invited the First Nations Leadership Council and other leaders to participate. From this gathering, we heard about the importance of male leaders standing up and telling their stories. We heard about the importance of opening a dialogue in our communities – not to judge or condemn, but to seek healing of both the victims and the offenders.
BC Chiefs mandated the First Nations Health Council to advocate on health and the broader social determinants of health. The Vision statement for the FNHC/FNHDA/FNHA is “Healthy, Self-Determining, Vibrant BC First Nations Children, Families, and Communities.” To achieve our vision statement, the FNHC will have to advocate. We will have to advocate for justice for our missing and murdered women, men, and girls. We will have to advocate for creating safety for our women, girls, children and families.
As difficult and as challenging as this work is, we must step up,provide leadershipand begin a dialogue. We must seek healing for both the offended and the offender. We must seek other like-minded leaders and organizations to do this work together.
Mental Health & Substance Use
As some of you may know, I have been walking with my daughter as she confronts her addiction to heroin. In walking with her, I see dedicated caregivers devoted to helping others. I also see gaps in services. I also see poorly governed organizations that do not provide quality services. I see the need to bring in other organizations to provide safe shelter for our people. We need to collaborate with likeminded leaders and organizations to provide shelter, pre-treatment support, post treatment support, and culturally appropriate programs and services.
Willie Charlie and I met with Sts’ailes caregivers on March 3rd. We talked about culture. We talked about ceremonies and rituals. We talked about government silos. We talked about the need to integrate multiple federal departments, BC Ministries, and First Nations programs. We talked about past successes and the need to redesign programs and services.
A recent cluster of youth suicides in the Fraser-Salish region resulted in a call for action from our health leaders and caregivers to prevent youth suicide. Willie Charlie and the Fraser Salish Regional team planned a sacred ceremony for April 1. At this ceremony, our family honoured the caregivers that work with our youth. We also called upon our dear aunties and uncles to brush off every participant. At the close of this sacred ceremony –we called for action. We will be calling upon all of the organizations and caregivers to work together to knock down silos, to integrate programs/services, and to act together to prevent suicides.
On March 26, the Fraser Aboriginal Health Steering Committee met. We met our new CEO – Michael Marchbank. We talked about the need to improve services noted above. We also talked about the need to confront racism and stereotypes in Fraser hospitals. We honoured Lois Dixon for her thirty plus years of service to Fraser Health and wished her well in her retirement.
Collaboration Partnership Working Group
The Collaboration and Partnership Working Group has been working to develop a proposal as requested by Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt. The proposal builds on our success in health and outlines a process for First Nations control over Child Welfare Services in BC.
To date, the Working Group has reviewed two drafts of this proposal and earlier this week gave direction on the final draft. The final draft proposal will be reviewed with Agency Directors Chairs – Bill Yoachim and Mary Teegee, RCYO Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the First Nations Leadership Council and the Leadership Collaboration for Social Policy Forum. Following this round of input, we plan to bring a final and polished proposal to review with the FNHC at our meeting in early May.
The Working Group believes that the approach we are proposing addresses issues and concerns in a good way. By building upon the strengths of the engagement pathway, we will seek a consensus in each region. From five regional consensus papers – we will develop one final FNHC consensus paper.
Sharing the story of the Made-in-BC Tripartite Health Transfer is ongoing. Other provinces, regions and federal agencies ask the FNHC and FNHA to share information about the work to create the First Nations Health Authority. Recently, AANDC has contracted negotiators to meet the commitments described in various agreements with Nunavut. As part of their fact finding process, these negotiators wanted to learn from our negotiations and the outcomes that resulted in the First Nations Health Authority. FNHC and FNHA shared information and lessons learned over a conference call.
On March 13th, a delegation of Chiefs and leaders from southeast Saskatchewan attended our FNHA offices in West Vancouver. These Saskatchewan Chiefs and leaders came to learn from us about the process of negotiations. The delegation reached out to the FNHA for advice on setting up their own First Nations Health Authority. We gave them a tour, shared information, and addressed their questions.
Some of the key messages to the group included:
- Determine who your partners are going to be and the climate you are going to be working in.
- Develop a strategy and a course of action to guide your work.
- Gather the human resources and tools you will need to create a climate of competency and legitimacy in your organization.
- Find allies and champions within your partner organizations to ensure the work progresses in a timely fashion.
- Expect resistance to change, but finds ways help people change the way they think in order to get the work done.
- Ensure you look at all revenue streams and find hidden opportunities in service delivery.
- Separate Business from Politics.
- Remember your mandate.
- Know that transition and transformation are continuous and on-going.
- Changing to a Health and Wellness model is critical to improving health outcomes for First Nations.
In March, I attended a meeting hosted by the First Nations Leadership Council which brought together a number of First Nations organizations to talk about our respective mandates and to look for ways to work together.
FNHA Chair in Heart Health and Wellness
I attended the public announcement of the FNHA Chair for Heart Health and Wellness. This initiative results from a discussion that Grand Chief Ed John had with his heart specialist. Joe Gallagher worked with partner organizations to create this new position. Grand Chief Ed John participated in this announcement and shared his personal story. The Chair will lead research and education in policy related to heart health, disease prevention and control associated with chronic diseases among First Nations people. This will provideinvaluable direction and a guiding voice in the area of cardiac health and its wellness determinants. The Chair will provide an active leadership voice locally, provincially and nationally, and will advance the understanding of strategies to develop a program of excellence in First Nations wellness and disease prevention. Read the release
Seabird Island has opened a pharmacy located in their health center. In addition to community health programs, the Seabird Island Health Centre offers dental and physician services. Called as a witness, I was pleased to respond to the work of the grand opening. It was a great event.
On March 28, along with members of the FNHC, I attended a sacred ceremony in Sechelt. The BC Ministry of Health Services, the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and Sechelt First Nation renamed the St. Mary’s Hospital to Shishalh Hospital. It was a beautiful ceremony. Called as a witness, I was proud to stand with Willie, Leah, and Ernest to respond to this sacred ceremony.
Conclusion & Wellness Update
April promises us a busy month. I have been training for the 10 km Vancouver Sun Run and Times Colonist Run in late April. The early spring has meant an early arrival of my allergies and the development of vertigo. As it is not a good thing to run while feeling the effects of vertigo I have not had the ideal training or preparation for the pending 10KM’s. I am focusing on developing my wind and endurance with fartlek training on shorter runs. I am feeling much better and should have no problem completing the runs. I will not break personal records for the runs but I will cross the finish line.
I am excited about our work. The ceremonies cleansed me, renewed my energy, and gave me strength to carry on.
Hoping that all is well with you my brothers and sisters, I look forward to seeing you all at Gathering Wisdom for a Shared Journey on May 5-7th.
Doug Kelly, First Nations Health Council Chair