Skip to main content

18. Recognize and implement the health-care rights of Aboriginal people

In progress - Projects proposed


The federal government has not implemented the health care rights of Indigenous people, but it is developing new legislation designed to improve Indigenous access to culturally relevant health services.

The Call to Action:

We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to acknowledge that the current state of Aboriginal health in Canada is a direct result of previous Canadian government policies, including residential schools, and to recognize and implement the health-care rights of Aboriginal people as identified in international law, constitutional law, and under the Treaties.


In January 2021, the federal government announced plans to co-develop legislation “to improve Indigenous access to high-quality, culturally relevant health services.”

The legislation is to be developed in consultation with First Nations, Inuit and Métis leadership, Indigenous women’s organizations, health professionals and the provinces and territories.

The legislation was planned to be drafted by the end of 2021. As of July 2022, however, the legislation has still not been drafted.

In 2019, the federal government acknowledged the current state of Indigenous health in Canada is a direct result of previous Canadian government policies.

According to the Crown-Indigenous Relations website, “The Government of Canada recognizes that the current state of Indigenous health is a direct result of the shameful historical legacy of colonialist policies and interventions against the well-being of Indigenous peoples and communities, including Indian residential schools, the Sixties Scoop and other harmful practices. The intergenerational impacts of Indian residential schools are well documented in international and national evidence cited in Government of Canada publications and specifically recognized in partnership agreements with Indigenous governments and representatives.”

British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories have also officially acknowledged this.

Joyce Echaquan, a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman from Manawan, died at the hospital in Joliette, Que., in September 2020, shortly after filming hospital staff insulting her as she cried for help.

The Atikamekw Council of Manawan and the council of the Atikamekw Nation created Joyce’s Principle to make sure Indigenous people get equitable access to government health and social services.

The federal government provided $2 million to the Atikamekw Nation and Manawan First Nation to implement the principle.

In 2021, the Quebec government refused to adopt ‘Joyce’s Principle,’ saying the manifesto calls for the acknowledgment of systemic racism in the province, something the Coalition Avenir Quebec government insists does not exist.

In 2020, the Southern Chiefs’ Organization representing 34 First Nations in southern Manitoba signed an agreement with the federal government to take greater control over their health care services.

In March 2018, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the federal government and Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), which represents First Nations in northern Manitoba. According to a federal statement, it was a commitment “to support health care transformation for MKO communities.”

In 2017, Nishnawbe Aski Nation signed a charter of relationship principles alongside federal and provincial ministers of health that set out common objectives and set all three governments on the path to transform the delivery of health care in Nishnawbe Aski Nation territory.

Data collection gaps in regards to health of First Nations people off reserve, Inuit outside Inuit Nunangat and Métis were highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.