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B.C. Aboriginals Vote to Take Over Health Services from Feds

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Aboriginals in British Columbia have taken the notion of sovereignty to another level: Faced with higher rates of health problems than mainstream Canadian society, a group of First Nations voted on May 26 to take over health service delivery from the federal government.

The move, a vote on a resolution put forth by the First Nations Health Council of British Columbia, gives the First Nations Health Council (FNHC)—created in 2007 to strengthen health care delivery to British Columbia’s aboriginal population—control over its own health care plans and implementation, as well as a mandate to work with provincial and health authorities, the council said in a press release on May 30.

The 167 chiefs and representatives attending a FNHC meeting voted 146 to 21 to accept the resolution, which endorsed signing a Tripartite Framework Agreement on First Nation Health Governance by First Nations, the Province of B.C. and the Canadian government, the FNHC said in a press release. The legally binding accord outlines the new health governance structure for First Nations health services and details plans for the transfer and funding of federal First Nations health programs and services. It also lays out ways in which officials from both First Nations and the provincial health system can cooperate to better meet First Nations health priorities and needs, the press release said.

A consensus paper that was included in the vote laid out a “historic level of agreement amongst First Nations in B.C. about their health and well-being, and a series of next steps for the First Nations Health Council to undertake,” the press release stated.

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“Through this new health governance approach, we will see remarkable improvements in the health and well-being of First Nations people in B.C. within one generation, and contribute to the health services accessed by all British Columbians,” said Grand Chief Doug Kelly, chair of the First Nations Health Council.

"The stark and grim reality is that First Nations people are currently not reflected in the health care system in this province and country," said Chief Doug White of the First Nations Summit Task Group in the FNHC statement. "With this historic decision, we have achieved a remarkable level of unity as First Nations in B.C., and it is through this unity that we will achieve the transformative change required to realize the healthy communities our people deserve. This is a time of great change, a time of great responsibility, and I honor the fact that we are taking these steps together as one."

More information and background material is on FNHC’s website.