Give federal health accord cash to First Nations, say chiefs
Youth suicide concerns can't wait for governments to stop squabbling, they say
The number of suicides among Indigenous youth requires urgent action, not more squabbling between the provincial and federal governments, say First Nations leaders who've grown frustrated by this month's national health accord talks.
If the provinces don't want the $11 billion the federal government is offering provinces for mental health and other needs, that money should go directly to First Nations, said Thunderchild First Nation Chief Delbert Wapass and others.
- Sask. premier doesn't rule out health-care side deal with federal government
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"I think the federal government should say, 'Well, province, if you're not interested, we're going to deal with First Nations. We're going to deal with Thunderchild First Nation," the Saskatchewan chief said.
"Let us be the model. Let us be the lead going forward. We think it's important. It's vital. It's serious."
Suicides weighing on communities
A recent string of suicides in northern Saskatchewan communities has drawn national attention. It's also been nearly one year since the mass shooting in La Loche, Sask.
- Sask. Premier Brad Wall says work still needed in province's north
- Young woman from northern Sask. compelled to act after cousin took her own life
Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) vice-chief Heather Bear hails from Ochapowace First Nation in southern Saskatchewan. Her two best friends and own daughter, Tasheena, have killed themselves.
Bear buried the 19-year-old several years ago on Christmas Eve.
"The suicides are still happening. The funding is long overdue," she said.
"Just give it to us."
Have us at the table, says FSIN chief
FSIN chief Bobby Cameron agreed the mental health money is needed immediately.
More importantly, First Nations should be at the table negotiating the next health deal with the provincial and federal governments.
"It only makes sense. We're all in this fight together," he said.
Sakimay First Nation Chief Lynn Acoose of Saskatchewan said she's not optimistic.
"This is an enormous problem," Acoose said. "I'm not holding my breath."
Earlier this month, the provinces rejected a new health accord that included $11 million over 10 years for mental health, home care and innovation.
- Ottawa, provinces fail to reach a deal on health spending
- New Brunswick secures $230M more for health care from Ottawa over 10 years
- Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador make deals with federal government on health
Some provinces such as New Brunswick relented and cut side deals. Saskatchewan and others remain opposed.