APTN National News
Several northern Ontario First Nation communities declared a public health emergency on Wednesday.
The 33 First Nations which declared the state of emergency are part of the Sioux Lookout region in northern Ontario. The First Nations have a combined population of about 30,000 people.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said the First Nations are currently in a state of crisis.
“The many urgent and long-standing health issues that plague our communities are well-documented and the time for action is now,” said Fiddler. “We are calling on all levels of government co commit to a plan of action to address this crisis.”
NAN is the umbrella organization which represents the Sioux Lookout area First Nations.
The health system in these First Nation communities is so underfunded children have died from treatable ailments. In 2014, two four-year-olds died from rheumatic fever.
“The health system provided to First Nations is an atrocious mess, which has led to the health crisis we are facing today,” said Solomon Mamakwa, health director with the Shibogama Health Authority. “We are not even allowed to access all mainstream health services and supports. This has led to the loss of many of our people, including children. This type of system is not tolerated or acceptable in mainstream society. Why are we expected to accept this as Indigenous peoples?”
NAN said in a statement it expects to meet with federal and provincial officials within the next 90 days to develop a plan to end the health crisis in the communities.
The offices of the federal and provincial health ministers could not immediately respond to a request for comment.