In yet another example of selective human rights protection in Canada, this summer saw Canadians pour out their hearts in support of our health care system, while thousands of First Nation, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) individuals living on reservations across Canada continue to battle barriers to basic health care services. On June 4th 2009, the Canadian Senate tabled a report from the Subcommittee on Population Health of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, “A Healthy, Productive Canada: A Determinant Of Health Approach.”
The report is a 360° review of the issues and barriers within the Canadian health care system, focusing especially on the third world conditions many of Canada’s First Nation reserves are in. This report highlights the concerns regarding life expectancy and its variable nature across Canada, particularly on these reserves.
This was exemplified this summer, when Manitoban reserves found it difficult to receive medical attention and supplies for the impending H1NI (Swine Flu) outbreak. As it is, these reserves are already teetering toward third world conditions: overcrowding, lack of drinking water, lack of proper or consistent medical attention and a lack of educational resources. They face increased chances of an outbreak, a genuine health hazard for the members of those communities. Manitoba reserves have been hit the hardest, but reservations in Nunavut and Ontario have also dealt with serious H1N1 outbreaks in their communities.
The situation in Manitoba is so intense that First Nation leaders are calling upon the federal and provincial governments to declare a state of emergency. Maybe once that occurs, they will finally receive hand sanitizer and basic first aid supplies. Earlier this summer, alcohol based hand sanitizer went undelivered to Manitoban reserves because of a fear that the hand sanitizer would be abused as a source of alcohol instead of used to curb the spread of the H1N1 virus.
[The full report as tabled can be found at media.kent.ca/node/6958]
Originally published September 17th, 2009. Features section, The Meliorist, Lethbridge Alberta. Volume 43, Issue 02.