Health Canada guilty of 'malpractice' in treatment of Indigenous youth, Charlie Angus says
Government has no method for tracking requests or denials for counselling for First Nations kids
In the midst of a suicide crisis among Indigenous youth, the federal department responsible for their health care cannot say how many children have sought help and been denied.
NDP MP Charlie Angus calls that "systemic negligence."
"We're losing children every single day and I hear in case after case that funding for mental health services wasn't available or that it was denied," Angus said.
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Angus pressed Health Minister Jane Philpott during a parliamentary committee on Nov. 16 to explain how Health Canada keeps track of the needs of First Nations children.
At first Philpott said she understood there was a tracking mechanism for how Health Canada responds to requests for service but then she deferred to a senior Health Canada official to answer the question.
"We don't track denials [of mental health services], because under this program everybody is eligible," Sony Perron said. "The service is coming from private providers. We don't necessarily have a tracking if people have asked for these sessions or have seen the providers. We confirm that we will be covering the cost."
With no formal record of service, Angus said he's left with anecdotal evidence that children are being denied requests for mental health care.
"I was in Attawapiskat just before the suicide crisis happened and I saw the fear on the faces of adults who were trying to keep a young girl alive and they couldn't get any help," he said. "Is that the kind of country we live in where we nickel and dime children's very lives?"
CBC News asked Health Canada how it records requests and denials of mental health services for Indigenous youth.
A spokesperson said she could not yet answer the question because "many groups" need to be consulted.
The one statistic that is readily available from Health Canada is that a new national help line for Indigenous people in crisis has received 360 calls since its launch on October 1st.
"How can the government say what they're doing is adequate if they're not keeping track?" Angus said. "That really speaks to the malpractice of Health Canada and the treatment of Indigenous children. They set a limit of how much they're going to spend and if that limit is spent then no services are available."
For Angus, it's the latest example of Canada's non-compliance with a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that ruled in January that the federal government discriminates against First Nations children in the provision of child welfare services.