Truth and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion

LO­CAL

Cape Breton Post - - Front Page - BY GREG MCNEIL

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.

GREG MCNEIL/CAPE BRE­TON POST

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.

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