Native Women’s Association of Canada
Few people in the world are in greater need of human rights protection than Indigenous peoples. Although governments have a duty and responsibility to ensure the welfare and safety of all their citizens, Indigenous peoples are often the target of policies designed to erode or suppress their rights and distinct cultural identities. Canada is no exception!
NWAC has worked tirelessly for more than 30 years to address shameful inequities that continue to plague Aboriginal women’s health in Canada. Aboriginal women are the least healthy and suffer the greatest chronic health conditions than any other segment of Canadian society. The burden of ill health affects them as individuals, their families, communities and the health system as a whole. However, Aboriginal women lag far behind the rest of the Canadian population in both of these areas.
Health Canada has advised NWAC today that it will not support its national innovative health programs or policy work, some of which have been held up as “best practices” in health, in order to preserve direct services to First Nations living on reserve only. Currently the vast majority of Aboriginal women (more than 70%) do not live on reserves, rather in rural and urban centers. This budget shows that for the most part, Aboriginal women’s health is not a priority for this Government.
Aboriginal women raise their families most often single handedly and in poverty situations (over 40% of Aboriginal women live in poverty). Further, it is well known that Aboriginal women carry the burden of ill health and have the highest rates of chronic disease. They experience unacceptably high levels of violence and abuse, Aboriginal women are newly diagnosed with HIV at over three times the rate of their non-Aboriginal counterparts, have atrocious disparities in suicide rates, and live on average almost six years less that non Aboriginal women.
Yes, more is needed to help local communities struggling with health disparities, but cutting the head off the national voice for Aboriginal women’s health shows a lack of commitment to address the issues that affect the most marginalized population in this country -- a country that is envied by many other nations across the globe for its ‘great’ health care system and quality of life.
“NWAC is calling on the public to demand that the Federal Government of Canada re-think its choices and give Canadians the information they need to understand the impacts of this budget and re-think this devastating decision. Today’s cuts to Aboriginal health and well-being will be tomorrow’s burden.” says Native Women’s Association of Canada’s President, Jeannette Corbiere Lavell.