Next week’s Crown – First Nations Gathering must be more than a photo op: NDP

EDMONTON – As the Premiers voice their dismay with Stephen Harper’s failure to consult on health transfers, equal concern should be given to the government turning its back on Aboriginal health care, according to New Democrat Aboriginal Affairs critic Linda Duncan (Edmonton-Strathcona) and Dany Morin (Chicoutimi-Le Fjord).

"What kind of message did the Prime Minister send when, on the eve of this critical summit, his government chose to exclude First Nations from last month's intergovernmental meetings on health care?” said Morin who is responsible for Aboriginal health on the Commons Health Committee. “Even the Premiers expressed concern about how Ottawa seemed to be reneging on their constitutional responsibility for Aboriginal and Northern community health care."

While the federal government has committed in the short term to increase provincial and territorial health transfers by 6 per cent per year, contributions for Aboriginal health remain substantially lower. According to Duncan, the message she is hearing loud and clear from First Nations’ leaders is that this long awaited summit must deliver concrete results, not just a photo op for the Prime Minister.

New Democrats are aware that First Nations’ leaders are looking to reset their relationship with the federal Crown and are committed to holding the Harper government to account on these issues, including:

Commitment to long term funding for capacity building and helping build the necessary tools and measures for First Nation self-government.

  • Honouring treaty commitments and respecting the UNDRIP for education, health, housing and infrastructure.
  • And a new fiscal relationship that moves beyond short-term contribution agreements and towards improved accountability and structural reforms, as outlined by the former Auditor General.

"As the Official Opposition, we will be holding the government’s feet to the fire to deliver on commitments and live up to their obligations to directly consult and engage First Nations on any proposed measures," concluded Duncan.