Indigenous Health Issues in Canada

In recognition of National Aboriginal Day, Indigenous Works sheds light on startling statistics and the social determinants of health plaguing Canada’s Indigenous people.

Years of research has revealed that Indigenous peoples (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) in Canada suffer a greater percentage of serious health issues than the rest of the population. This does not come as a shock to our healthcare providers in hospitals and medical centres across the country, but may be a surprising revelation to the general population.

There have been strides made on the part of many Indigenous communities to improve education around health issues, but despite these improvements, Indigenous people remain at higher risk for illness and earlier death than non-Indigenous people. Chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease are on the increase. There are definite links between income, social factors and health and there is a higher rate of respiratory problems and other infectious diseases among Indigenous children than among non-Indigenous children.

Read: Jordan’s Principle

Other noted and important factors that have contributed to these serious health issues of Canada’s Indigenous population are lower levels of education, inadequate housing and crowded living conditions, lower income levels, higher rates of unemployment as well as higher rates of incarceration. Sadly, according to Health Canada statistics, any one of these factors, or a combination of them, frequently result in higher mortality rates among children and youth due to accidental and unintentional injuries and even suicides. Health Canada has reported that—Indigenous children are three to four times more likely to die from unintentional injuries than non-Indigenous children.

Most tragic of all is the higher rate of suicide among First Nation, Métis and Inuit youth. Suicide rates are five to seven times higher for First Nations youth than for non-Indigenous youth, and for Inuit youth, the rate is among the highest in the world—11 times the national average. Suicide and self-inflicted injuries are the leading causes of death for First Nations youth and adults up to 44 years of age.

Saskatchewan First Nations leaders are demanding the federal and provincial governments address a health crisis at three Yorkton-area reserves, where almost 100 people died last year. Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Senator, Ted Quewezance, at a news conference recently held in Saskatoon is quoted as saying, “Addictions, mental illness and chronic diseases are laying waste to Indigenous communities under-served by health-care systems that add to the problems by over-reliance on prescription drugs.” Quewezance and vice-chief Kimberley Jonathan joined the chiefs at the news conference where they said the problem is apparent throughout the system. Vice chief Jonathan said, “This is a joint effort, not something to be decided for us. Include the Indigenous leaders with the province and the federal government. That’s what must happen for true reconciliation”.

Education and career opportunities are important key factors in reducing the health risks facing Canada’s Indigenous youth. Indigenous Works is a leading contributor to the development of career opportunities for Indigenous youth via their annual premier Indigenous Workplace Inclusion Event and Recruitment Fair—Inclusion Works. The theme for Inclusion Works ’16 is A Gathering of Changemakers. This prestigious event will bring together change-makers including indigenous economic development corporations, employment centres, educational institutions and companies from across corporate Canada over a 3-day period. This three day event includes many unique aspects, including: management learning, high-level networking, an artisans’ showcase, a recruitment fair and workplace inclusion awards.

Read: National Indigenous Peoples Day: A Personal Reflection and Coming of Age

Submitted by:

Kelly J. Lendsay, President & CEO
Indigenous Works
#2, 2510 Jasper Ave
Saskatoon, SK S7J 2K