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Indigenous Health Forum 2016 - Keynote Address TOWARDS HEALTH AND RECONCILIATION


Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day

Keynote Address


Indigenous Health Forum

Hilton Mississauga Meadowvale Hotel

 May 26-27, 2016 | Toronto, ON


“Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us.”David Richo


Traditional Greetings

My name is Isadore Day, Wiindategowinini – whose name I carry as a reminder of who my ancestors are and where I came from – and what my responsibilities are as an Anishinabe who would be granted the privilege to serve.

 Currently, I hold the National Portfolio on Health at the Assembly of First Nations. With that comes the responsibility of Co-Chair of the Chiefs Committee on Health.

 I would like to dedicate my words today to three important focus points of Health and Reconciliation:

 To all those that have passed on without knowing this new era of Reconciliation – that, if they would have had what we have today, they may have experienced a beauty of life not afforded to them in their time;

 To all of those that are suffering in our First Nation communities in Canada that now await the work that we are embarking on in this new Ere of Reconciliation; and

 To YOU – those that are out there at the Health Policy table or the Operating Table – where you are fueled by knowledge, skills and values of your profession to help those in need; those that are embodied in the future of your ancestors lineage to help your fellow human being


 I will elaborate my remarks connecting Health and Reconciliation to the terrible reality of the First Nation Health Crisis that exists in this country today.

 Since taking on this role, I have been working diligently to raise the profile of First Nations health and the health crisis that face our communities.


I have also sought to bring to the table, health concerns from across the country; which the Chiefs Committee on Health has raised from each of their respective regions.


Friends, our world changed last October with the election of a new Federal government.


But in my mind, it changed even more, in a substantive way, when Justice Murray Sinclair and his fellow commissioners released the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Executive and Full Report and the 94 Calls for Action that mapped out the blueprint for changing the course of history in Canada and its deep dark legacy of abuse suffered by our moms, dads, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers and our grandparents.

 The efforts of the 94 CFA are as a result of the testimonies and the painstaking work, shouldered by the IRS Survivors, who spoke about the experiences of a  “decades-long”  imprisonment of abuse, neglect, illness, and death – both figuratively and in some cases – they brought back stories of witnessed accounts of horrific crimes where loss of life was witnessed and buried in their memories – until the time when this commission could do its work to help identify and release the pain and trauma of those events.

 That my friends is one of the very reasons why we are here talking about Healing and Reconciliation – it is because of their courage – and their commitment to do what they can to heal; and help another human being to heal.

 (Please – can we applaud their efforts and acknowledge them; I know there are some here among us today!!)

 Again, last October, nearly 10yrs of being ignored and openly targeted came to a close. Mr. Harper’s reign of terror against our people was done. We must recognize where “we” are at – and where “we” have been in the last decade on health. Here in the Ontario Region, the COO Health Department has 10yrs of preparation for this new era!


In our region, we have the added benefit of working with a strong, committed and focused provincial government that has taken the issue of First Nations seriously. We applaud the work of Premier Kathleen Wynne and Health Minister Eric Hoskins.

 Two notable points under their leadership:


Last August we signed a Political Accord with the Premier, improving the relationship and commitment toward First Nations in Ontario on substantive political issues;

And a 220M$ announcement made yesterday on First Nation Health – to a commitment level not known by any provincial government in this province; ever!

I applaud their leadership & personally thank them for their courage for setting a new standard in government relations in Ontario.


Today we have an exciting opportunity to set the agenda for First Nations health. I have taken that responsibility very seriously – and your presence here tells me that we have a great many people working for our First Nations that feel the same way; I thank you for helping create opportunities for change.



 Over the last number of months, I have been structuring my work as the ORC and the Chair of the CCoH around the distinction between Health Emergency – and Health Crisis.

 Last summer, I attended a SLFNHA meeting where they spoke about the plans to issue a Public Health Emergency. Sol Mamukwa, the Health Director at Shibogamo Tribal Council and I had numerous discussions on the reasons; the health issues and lost lives in the north – this clearly described health emergency.


But I began to question – What is behind this? Why the neglect from government? What are the root causes? How can we frame this?


I was also in the process at that time of connecting with Dr. Michael Dan to collaborate on a joint Op-Ed:


Let me read an excerpt:

 “Here we are – once again in the middle of a national election and once again the federal campaigns are ignoring what is Canada’s most urgent issue: the health of our indigenous communities, families and individuals.

 This is without doubt the most shameful fact of Canada’s history. It continues to inflict its damage on more than a million people in Canada. No other group in Canada lives with the poverty, illness, social and cultural burdens that we impose on our indigenous peoples: third-world standards of housing, water supply, social supports and healthcare; more illness of all sorts (diabetes, heart disease, tuberculosis, to name but a few), higher suicide rates, more children in foster care, lower levels of education and employment … when will it be addressed and when will it end?”

 My point – there has been a mundane, deadly and preventable First Nation Health Crisis in Canada that is responsible for these many health emergencies that continue to force reactionary health care; that contributes to the high mortality rates of FN people; and a crisis that has very two very clear culprits in history.


1) Canada’s Apartheid – the Indian Act; and, 2) Indian Residential Schools. These two culprits are the colonial guideposts that governments grapple with today – that make your jobs more challenging.


Elaborate – Indian Act - Land, People, Financial Affairs; and IRS; destroying the Family, Ignoring Indigenous Governance, and crippling the efficacy of a First Nation community to stand on its own autonomy, its own authority. That essentially is the root – an invasive species, if you will called the Bad weed Colonialism! (Connect South Africa)


Addressing these issues through the lens of Healing and Reconciliation and the work of the IHC, is very much in line with what the CCoH discuss when we take the discussion of Health and the Social Policy framework perspective – that speaks about both Primary Health Care – and SDoH.


Fixing Health Emergencies – is about getting to the bottom of the Truth – hence the TRC.


 Moving Forward

 Your ideas, concerns and opportunities for a stronger health systems through an Indigenous Perspective are invaluable – it’s a blessing that we have these types of gatherings.


As the Chair of the CCoH, I want to extend the support and proposed partnership with any one here who wants to extend efforts and health outcomes of First Nation people across Canada – through the Healing and Reconciliation lens.


There are a number of things that we can do together – on the ground, in the media and within our various health policy relationships.


Note: for example…


NAN Declaration  - Federal / Provincial Response

RNAO – LOI toward a partnership in Ontario

There are many examples of opportunities. Etc.


My advocacy has largely been focussed on two separate, but closely aligned processes: namely, ensuring First Nations have a seat at the table for the renewal of the Health Accord, and identifying priorities as we prepare to go into a Kelowna-like negotiation with the federal government.


Working on these two processes means invoking each and every powerful instrument at our disposal. These include the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), many of which involve health and the recent decision of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal on Child Welfare.


It also means invoking the campaign promises made by the Liberal party during the campaign. For example, this new government has promised the full implementation of UNDRIP and the TRC Calls to Action. These are not small tasks. Achieving them will require nothing short of the structural realignment of Canada; and I also suggest that we must challenge ourselves, to strengthen a collective fight for the health and well-being of our people. As I stated, we have Ontario working with us – we need Canada to now reciprocate.


Prime Minister Trudeau committed to working with First Nations on a Nation-to-Nation basis, which aligns with many of our long-held goal of First Nations control of First Nations health.


It means viewing First Nations as equal partners and experts in their own health and wellness.

It also requires a federal commitment to long term sustainable and flexible funding matched to population growth, health needs and cost drivers.

Essentially, it requires both policy change and a cultural shift within the federal government including FNIHB and resources on the ground in our First Nations.



 Recently, there have been some fast-moving developments when it comes to the renegotiation of the Health Accord in this country.


At the CCoH, we have recently met with Canada and have begun to accelerate the development of a FN HATT. This will ensure that we are generating all the necessary parts and processes to make sure that FN across Canada are integrql to a new Health Accord in 2017-2018.


As you certainly know, the Health Accord is largely an agreement around the funding formula through which the federal government provides funding to the provinces and territories for their health systems. It also contains a few specific priority areas where the jurisdictions are to direct specific efforts, such as reducing wait times and investments creating stronger more effective health care.


When the Health Accord was originally negotiated in 2004, there was essentially no involvement of First Nations.


However, we know that First Nations, even those living on reserve, utilize provincial health systems. In addition, First Nations population numbers are factored into the funding formula for provinces. Therefore there is an obligation for the provinces and territories to take First Nations health seriously. This can only be achieved if First Nations are at the table.


It took some last minute wrangling from COO, Grand Chief Pat Madahbee and the National Chiefs office, but we did invoke an invitation to participate in the Health Ministers Meeting in Vancouver, about 2 days before the event.


The meeting brought together the Health Ministers from the provinces and territories, as well as the federal minister to discuss the renewal of the Health Accord in Canada.


I, along with Inuit and Metis representatives, was provided an opportunity to speak to First Nations health needs and priorities and make the case for real and meaningful engagement from the provinces and territories in closing the gap in First Nations health outcomes.



 Over the next several weeks and months, I look forward to continuing our work with the AFN, Canada and the provincial and territorial Health Ministers to ensure that FN Health Jurisdiction gets set in in proper place Nationally.

 Thank you for your time and the hard work you do in our First Nation communities on Indigenous Health. We truly are blessed to be at this level of being able to help so many.

 But we are not alone – let me go back to what I said about our Ancestors. A short short story about Sharon Gow-Meawasige.

 She told of a story about the ancestors of health professionals…

 I want to assure you – that in this era of Healing and Reconciliation – you are not alone! Have a great conference!

 We truly are in an exciting time.


The Chiefs of Ontario is a political forum and a secretariat for collective decision making, action, and advocacy for the 133 First Nation communities located within the boundaries of the province of Ontario, Canada. Follow Chiefs of Ontario on Facebook or Twitter @ChiefsOfOntario.


For more info, please contact: Jamie Monastyrski, Communications: 807-630-7087