Truth and reconciliation
Symposium wraps up in Membertou.
A Mi’kmaq health authority emerged as something to consider from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission symposium over the past three days in Membertou.
The three-day symposium was seen as a chance to monitor the progress on calls to action from the commission and to produce a workplace to implement those calls.
The need for a Mi’kmaq health authority was suggested after alarmingly high mortality rates among First Nation adults and children in the province were discussed.
“It was just a shock. I didn’t know that. I suspected it but no one had ever showed me stats,” said Senator Dan Christmas.
“I think given the realities that we are facing, I think that is a reasonable next step forward.”
Proximity to health-care facilities and institutions is not thought to be the reason for high mortality rates. Instead, it’s likely a cultural gap often felt by the Mi’kmaq and that has frequently been a topic of discussion within the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“Even though we are in close proximity, people won’t access (health care) because they don’t feel comfortable. We have to help Aboriginal people feel comfortable in the institutions. The question then pops into my head — why are we not comfortable and I come to the issue of culture.”
Christmas believes a Mi’kmaq health authority can find the same success as its education system.
Since taking control over education in 1997, First Nation high school graduation rates are higher than the provincial average.
“I think what the chiefs are saying is ‘let us take control of health and we can change these numbers around in time’ and we will become healthier, less of a burden on the health-care system.”
A new Mi’kmaw Native Friendship
Centre in Halifax, improved early childhood development and a monument in Nova Scotia for residential school survivors are other ideas discussed during the past three days that Christmas would like to see come to fruition.
Chief Sidney Peters of Glooscap First Nation was pleased with the wide variety of government officials and representatives from various groups who attended the sessions.
He hopes all will be willing to continue the conversation on what they had heard in the days to come.
“This truth and reconciliation is an opportunity to make a difference no matter where they are,” said Peters.
“I think research and information is so important for decision making. Hopefully, it will allow these individuals here, the opportunity to express that when they are actually talking to people and their leadership.”
Everything discussed since Wednesday will form a draft work plan to be presented on Nov. 15 to representatives from Indigenous Affairs, Aboriginal Affairs Nova Scotia, the provinces 13 Mi’kmaq chiefs and others.
That two-part work plan will highlight positives already accomplished or in progress and the to do list will include things like a proposed Mi’kmaq health authority.
Between now and November, Christmas said many other conversations will take place that will help form that document.
Senator Dan Christmas and Chief Sidney Peters of Glooscap First Nation look over an illustration that stretches across the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre. The very detailed illustration documents all three days of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Symposium in Membertou.