'We're beyond arguing' who's responsible for indigenous health, says health minister

Federal and provincial health ministers have pledged to work together with First Nations' leaders to tackle ongoing public health crises.

Money for home care coming when Ottawa finishes negotiations on new health accord

Jane Philpott on health crises in remote First Nations communities

5 years ago
Minister of Health Jane Philpott discusses what the government is doing to help solve persistent health crises in remote First Nations communities 10:51

Canada's Health Minister is dipping her toe into Ontario's provincial jurisdiction in a bid to solve one of the most persistent crises in the country: Indigenous health.

Philpott says that she and her provincial counterpart, Eric Hoskins, have set up a joint action table so that federal and provincial governments can "work together hand and hand" with First Nations leaders to solve some of the problems.

In recent weeks several First Nations communities have declared states of emergency over rising suicide rates and worsening health conditions that stem in part from poor housing conditions and water quality.

"Jurisdiction challenges are no longer an acceptable excuse, just as geography is no longer an acceptable excuse. We're beyond arguing as to whose responsibility it is,"  Philpott said when asked by host Rosemary Barton on CBC News Network's Power & Politics about how the approach would work given the provinces' responsibility for health.

Calling the issue "daunting" Philpott said there are nevertheless "a ton of things that can be done if we are determined and put our minds to it." One improvement Philpott suggested that would be made immediately is rebuilding nursing stations in remote communities.

Philpott said some are "rather dilapidated" and work would start right away on rebuilding them in a bid to encourage nursing staff to stay in the community.

Money has been set aside in the federal budget for health infrastructure.

Budget brush-off

What was not in the federal budget was a promised $3 billion to improve home care. Philpott said the government is still committed to the proposal, although it has not been earmarked in this year's budget.

She said the money is "solidly going to be there" once the government has negotiated a new health accord with the provinces and territories.

"It would be irresponsible of us, at this point, to say; 'here's the money, let's figure out later what we're going to do with it,' " she said.