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Elder Terry McKay and Program Coordinator Mark Marsolais who are with the Odawa Aboriginal Community Justice Program, Odawa Friendship Centre in Ottawa.
Healing the focus of justice program
On April 19, the Odawa Friendship Centre held a thanksgiving and unveiling ceremony at Ottawa’s Elgin Street courthouse attended by about 300 people.
“We wanted to publicly acknowledge our partnership with the courts and give thanks to them, the Crown Attorney’s Office and all our other supporters,” said Mark Marsolais, a citizen of Whitefish River Ojibway First Nation in Ontario with over 20 years’ experience in the justice system.
Marsolais is also the coordinator with the Odawa Aboriginal Community Justice Program (OACJP), a diversion program for First Nations, Métis and Inuit people charged with summary conviction offences in Ottawa. The maximum penalty for such offences is six months imprisonment, a fine of $5,000 or both.
Three years ago, the Odawa Centre decided to tackle the problem of Aboriginal over-representation in the criminal justice system. Discussions with the Crown Attorney’s office resulted in the OACJP.
“The individual is pulled from the collective justice system and into our diversion program and their charges are dealt with through a traditional justice program.”
The focus is on healing rather than punishment, he stressed.
Jordan’s Principle decision has far-reaching implications
PICTOU LANDING FIRST NATION, N.S.
The successful argument of Jordan’s Principle in federal court could have major implications for other battles First Nations are waging for equity in funding and service.
On April 4, the Federal Court of Canada ruled that Jordan’s Principle is legally enforceable and not simply a policy, as the federal government had been claiming.
“The court agreed with our arguments that it is a responsibility that the federal government has assumed and therefore they can be held accountable,” said Paul Champs, lawyer for the Pictou Landing Band and Maurina Beadle.
The band and Beadle challenged the federal government to support Beadle’s son Jeremy Meawasige, a severely disabled youth, at the same level of support Jeremy would receive if he were living off reserve. Jeremy lives with his mother Maurina on Pictou Landing First Nation. Champs invoked Jordan’s Principle, a concept which received unanimous support from the House of Commons in 2007. Jordan’s Principle was developed in response to a Manitoba case involving Jordan Anderson, a severely disabled First Nations child who remained in hospital due to jurisdictional disputes between the federal and provincial governments over payment of home care services. Jordan died at age five without being able to live in a family environment.
“It’s absolutely an awesome, awesome decision for us. It’s like justice has finally been done in this situation,” said Philippa Pictou, director of Pictou Landing Health Centre.
The commitment to funding ensures that the First Nation can provide Jeremy’s care.
“Having that security makes a huge difference. Up until now we’re constantly under threat of not being able to provide (funding and care),” said Pictou.
Jeremy’s situation came to the fore when his mother suffered a stroke in 2010 and couldn’t care for him. The band stepped in to provide the services so Jeremy could remain at home and would not need to be institutionalized outside of his community. The band asked the federal government to reimburse its costs. Aboriginal Affair and Northern Development Canada refused to provide funding at an equivalent rate.
New substance abuse strategy in context
The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse has launched a national strategy on prescription drug abuse. “The Assembly of First Nations welcomed the opportunity to be part of the development of this national strategy along with other Indigenous organizations,” said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo in a news release. The strategy, entitled, First Do No Harm: Responding to Canada’s Prescription Drug Crisis, was developed around five streams of action: prevention, education, treatment, monitoring and surveillance, and enforcement. Together these action streams aim to prevent prescription drug-related harm to individuals, families and communities; educate and empower the public and promote healthy and safe communities; and promote appropriate prescribing and dispensing practices among healthcare practitioners, all while providing a contextual lens to First Nation, geographically remote, isolated and rural populations. The document acknowledges that key concepts must be used as the context for recommendations as applied to First Nation people and include historical and cultural context; social determinants of health; trauma and intergenerational trauma; cultural competency and safety; Elders and Indigenous knowledge; remote, isolated and rural communities; and jurisdiction and governance, whether at the individual, family, community, provincial or national level. As reported by Health Canada in 2011, First Nation communities participating in a national survey between 2008-2010, reported that alcohol and drug use and abuse was considered to be the number one challenge for community wellness faced by on-reserve communities.
Violence against women prevention funded
Six recipients are receiving funding from the Prevention of Violence Against Aboriginal Women Fund from the Yukon government. The projects funded are designed by and delivered for Aboriginal women to help prevent violence in their communities. Four one-year projects will each receive $25,000, while two projects that will span two years will receive a total of $50,000 each. “These six projects utilize innovative approaches to preventing and reducing violence in the lives of Aboriginal women in the Yukon,” said minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate Elaine Taylor in a news release. “This includes engaging men who choose not to be violent and an Elder mentor program to assist Aboriginal women at the women’s shelter and in second stage housing.” Since the development of the Prevention of Violence Against Aboriginal Women Fund in 2004, the Women’s Directorate has contributed about $1.5 million towards projects. The fund was established to help address the disproportionate levels of violence experienced by Aboriginal women in the Yukon. Due to a high demand for monetary support, the fund was doubled to $200,000 annually in 2009.
Federal Safe Streets and Communities Act a concern
B.C.’s provincial health officer has released “Health, Crime and Doing Time: Potential Impacts of the Safe Streets and Communities Act (Former Bill C-10) on the Health and Well-being of Aboriginal People in British Columbia.” The report, which was developed in response to federal legislation, finds that the Safe Streets and Communities Act will increase the likelihood that youth will be imprisoned, and that Aboriginal people, especially youth and youth in government care, are a vulnerable population that will be disproportionately affected by the act. “We are concerned that the new federal legislation represents a step backwards and creates circumstances that will likely result in still more Aboriginal youth and adults in prisons, and lower health status for Aboriginal people in correction facilities, as well as their families and communities,” said Dr. Evan Adams, deputy provincial health officer, in a news release. Aboriginal people represent approximately five per cent of the population of B.C., but represent over one-quarter of admissions into B.C. correctional centres. The report makes nine recommendations, including that the act be either revoked or substantially amended to ensure that it recognizes the unique history and context of Aboriginal people in Canada, and considers the mental, physical and emotional health and wellness of Aboriginal offenders. Other recommendations include improving collaboration between the health and justice sectors and with Aboriginal people; focusing on the prevention and diversion of crime; and undertaking comprehensive monitoring and evaluation of the effects of the act.
Regina HIV findings startling
A pilot study of First Nations people in Regina that looks at HIV prevention, sexual activity and drug use indicates that almost half of those who tested positive for HIV didn’t know they were infected. The survey, funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada, found that of 1,045 people who gave blood samples, five per cent tested positive for the virus. The survey was conducted between December 2011 and June 15, 2012, with the help of the Aboriginal community, Regina health providers and AIDS groups. According to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health there were 186 HIV cases reported in 2011 and 81 per cent were Aboriginal people.
Department of Family Services added to Nunavut government
As of April 1, the new Department of Family Services began operations as part of a restructured Nunavut government. Monica Ell is minister of the new department. All social services are now delivered out of Family Services. The mission of the Department of Family Services is to provide a one-window access to a range of programs and services to support families which will align government priorities in order to achieve the government’s Tamapta mandate. The government announced it was considering changes to the structure of operations in the 2011 budget, and announced it was examining the division of Health and Social Services in the 2012 budget. Changes reflect a report tabled by the Auditor General of Canada at the Legislative Assembly in 2011 entitled, “Child, Youth and Family Programs and Services in Nunavut.” The report identified the need to improve programs and services for children, youth and families.
Funding to provide mental health services at Ontario university
Niagara post-secondary students dealing with stress and other mental health issues will get access to 24-hour support, thanks to a new online portal and other services being supported by the Ontario government. The portal will be built upon an Aboriginal understanding of wellness, presenting mental health from the four aspects of well-being: emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual. Initially, the Holistic Wellness Initiative will be designed to respond to the needs of Aboriginal, MÈtis, and Inuit students. In 2014, activities will be expanded to respond to needs of all post-secondary students in Niagara. Brock University will receive $360,240 over three years to address growing concerns about student mental health issues. “Mental health issues are one of the most prominent health concerns on any campus,” said President Jack Lightstone. “Brock is committed to the wellbeing of its students and is very pleased to partner with the ministry through its initiative to support the mental health of post-secondary students.”
Yukon gov't programs embrace active living
The Yukon government has committed $250,000 annually to help raise the activity level of children and adults in order to combat the rising rates of obesity. “This funding commitment in support of the Renewed Yukon Active Living Strategy maximizes opportunities for children and youth to be active in all communities, and represents an investment into the health, wellbeing and quality of life of all Yukoners,” said Community Services Minister Elaine Taylor. In step with the Renewed Yukon Active Living Strategy, the Health and Social Services department launched its Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Strategy and its Pathways to Wellness initiative. Together these programs share resources to increase access to sport and recreation, healthy living, healthy eating and a higher quality of life. The renewed funding investment is subject to legislative approval in the 2013/14 budget.
Study shows breastfeeding reduces asthma in children
Research on Aboriginal children in Canada has determined that breastfeeding can reduce the risk of asthma occurring in young children. The main goal of the study, conducted by Ming Ye, PhD candidate with the School of Public Health, was to see if breastfeeding had any effect on young Aboriginal children living in non-reserve areas in Canada. The data indicated that the prevalence for asthma overall, regardless of gender, age, socio-economic status, and other such factors, was lower in urban Aboriginal children than the Canadian average. According to the study, which is reported in the Canadian Respiratory Journal, the prevalence of asthma is 11.4 per cent for children that were not breastfed. Even children that had been breastfed some of the time, but not exclusively, showed lower prevalence for asthma (nine per cent) than those children who had never been breastfed. Exclusively breastfed children had an asthma prevalence of 6.8 per cent.
N.W.T. examines ways to partner to prevent cancer
The Department of Health and Social Services will team up with the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer to see how they and other health organizations can work together to reduce the impact of cancer on Aboriginal peoples in the Northwest Territories. “Advancing cancer control with and for First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities is a priority for the Partnership,” said Lee Fairclough, vice-president at Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. “We are working hard to educate our residents about cancer and prevention,” said Minister of Health and Social Services Tom Beaulieu. The Partnership has a First Nations, Inuit and Métis Action Plan on Cancer Control.
New funding to address prescription narcotics addictions
Ontario is working with First Nations communities to increase access to care and community supports for those addicted to prescription narcotics. The province is providing ongoing annual funding to support five new Community Wellness Development Teams and to increase the use of telemedicine equipment in First Nations treatment centres. Community Wellness Development Teams provide mental health and addictions expertise and support to First Nations communities seeking help in addressing prescription narcotic addiction by blending tradition and cultural practices. Using new telemedicine equipment will allow providers to conference with patients in remote communities to enhance addictions treatments. In October 2012, Ontario announced $15 million in new funding for addressing prescription-narcotics addictions, $2 million of which supports Aboriginal and First Nations initiatives.
Language, culture key to improve health of children
Anthropologist Dawn Martin-Hill says improving the health of Aboriginal children requires teaching them about their traditional languages and culture. Martin-Hill, speaking at an Indigenous children’s health symposium recently at McMaster Innovation Park, said ongoing and systemic racism within the medical profession coupled with a deep distrust of doctors by Aboriginals are two of the major reasons why the quality of health of Aboriginal children is worse than other young Canadians. She said that restorative health through traditional methods of intervention, bringing back rituals, learning about culture and language allow children to be empowered. Martin-Hill, a Mohawk of the Wolf Clan, holds a PhD in cultural anthropology. She lives on Six Nations territory and is one of the founders of the Indigenous studies program at McMaster University.
PathDMS helps track outcomes, progress
Williams Consulting, a First Nation company, has developed Path Data Management System (PathDMS) as a means to help front-line First Nation health managers more readily and consistently capture the progress they are making toward achieving work plan objectives, indicators, outcomes and performance measures. The need to more effectively capture this information is a priority shared by many Aboriginal front-line service providers in urban and rural centres. The data solution is designed to be intuitive and address multiple needs including health planning and management, promptly identifying emerging issues, accountability to community members, leadership and funders. PathDMS improves availability and access to quality data collection and analysis to better inform decision-making and priorities. It is the first application designed specifically for First Nations to address their unique data collection and reporting needs.
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