Canada Invests in High-Quality Health Care for Indigenous Peoples
The Government of Canada is working with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis partners across the country to address gaps and systemic inequities in health care services, as well as to deliver high-quality and culturally appropriate health care, as reported by the Canadian government in a press release.
“The promise of our universal health care system in Canada is that no matter where you live or what you earn, you will always be able to get the medical care you need, when you need it. Right now, our health care system is not living up to that promise,” The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada.
The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, highlighted on March 2nd, the recently announced federal investment of an additional $2 billion over 10 years to help ensure access to quality and culturally safe health care services, in line with the priorities of Indigenous partners.
“We’re making major investments to improve our system – and that includes an additional major investment to deliver better health care for Indigenous Peoples, in line with their priorities. We will work in partnership with Indigenous communities to deliver results where they’re needed most.” The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
This new Indigenous Health Equity Fund will be distributed to ensure support to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities. Over the coming months, the Government of Canada will work with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis partners across the country, as well as provinces and territories, on the design and implementation of the Fund, ensuring alignment with Indigenous-led regional and community health priorities.
“I have heard many devastating personal stories from First Nations, Inuit, and Métis leaders and community members about racism and discrimination in Canada’s health systems. Accessing health care, free of racism is a basic human right.” The Hon. Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services
The new Fund is part of the government’s plan to increase health investments by $198.6 billion over 10 years to improve health care across the country. This additional funding will help clear backlogs and support the front-line workers who power Canada’s health care system; give all Canadians access to a primary health team as well as quality mental health and substance use services to support their well-being; and ensure patients can access their own health information and benefit from it being shared between health professionals, across jurisdictions.
The Government of Canada continues its commitment to address gaps, support Indigenous health priorities, and work toward eliminating health inequities for all.
In addition to the new Indigenous Health Equity Fund, the federal government invests approximately $5 billion in Indigenous health each year. This includes important new investments announced since 2021 to support further progress, including:
- $354 million over five years to increase the number of nurses and other medical professionals in remote and isolated First Nations communities;
- $250 million over five years to further support recruitment and retention of health professionals on reserve;
- $825 million over three years for distinctions-based mental health and wellness strategies;
- $127 million over three years to foster health systems free from racism and discrimination; and
- $107 million over three years to continue efforts to transform how health services are designed and delivered by First Nations communities.
Indigenous Health Care in Canada
The organization of Canada’s health care system is largely determined by the Canadian Constitution, in which roles and responsibilities are divided between the federal, provincial and territorial governments. Generally, provinces and territories have primary jurisdiction over the administration and delivery of health care services. This includes setting their own priorities, administering their health care budgets and managing their own resources.
The federal government exercises a role in health care primarily through the use of the federal spending power. The Canada Health Act, Canada’s legislation imposing national standards on provincial health care insurance plans as a condition of accepting a federal contribution to the cost of those plans, is an example of the use of the federal spending power.
With respect to health care for Indigenous peoples, which include First Nations, Inuit and Métis, the federal, provincial and territorial levels of government share some degree of jurisdiction. The Canadian health system is a complex patchwork of policies, legislation and relationships. Indigenous peoples are included in the per capita allocations of funding from the federal fiscal transfer and are entitled to access insured provincial and territorial health services as residents of a province or territory.
Indigenous Services Canada funds or directly provides services for First Nations and Inuit that supplement those provided by provinces and territories, including primary health care, health promotion and supplementary health benefits.
Indigenous Services Canada also funds or directly provides certain health care services to First Nations communities and funds the provision of certain community health programs for Inuit living in Inuit Nunangat.
This is in addition to federal funding provided to territorial governments. Indigenous Services Canada also funds non-insured health care benefits to eligible First Nations and recognized Inuit regardless of where they live in Canada. Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada provide funding for programs that target, in part, Indigenous peoples who live in urban settings or in northern communities.
The Public Health Agency of Canada is also responsible for promoting and protecting the health of all Canadians, which includes Indigenous peoples, regardless of where they reside and offers an array of grants and contribution funding aimed at promoting health, as well as preventing and controlling chronic diseases, injuries and infectious diseases.
Federal funding for First Nations and Inuit health services is provided through annual appropriations and is subject to discretionary increases or reductions by the federal government. This is in contrast with the main federal transfer to provinces and territories for health (that is, the Canada Health Transfer), which is protected in legislation. For Métis, off-reserve First Nations and non-status First Nations, services and benefits are primarily provided for by provinces and territories.
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