Health issues of Aboriginal Canadians scrutinized

Health issues of Aboriginal  Canadians scrutinized
Fort Smith Health Centre nurse-practitioner Julie Lys.Photo: Paul Bannister.

Fort Smith Health Centre nurse-practitioner Julie Lys will be speaking on the state of Aboriginal health in Canada at Rideau Hall, the official residence and workplace of the Governor General, in Ottawa on Tuesday, March 27.

The roundtable dialogue, aimed at “taking action to improve the health and healing of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people, families and communities,” is being hosted by her Excellency Sharon Johnston, the wife of the Governor General.

Lys is a commissioner on the National Expert Commission of Canadian Nurses Association which is partnering in the event. She has made presentations across Canada regarding Aboriginal health issues.

Lys is passionate about the need to understand the core issues involved. After 20 years as a health care professional in the NWT, she says there needs to be a better understanding of “where the pain comes from.” She said medical professionals who come from the south do not always have that understanding, for example they may not be aware of the effects of residential schools that are passed down through generations.

“A drunk tank or jail is not the answer,” she stated.

She decried the recent shooting of two people in the North by RCMP.

“I have family who are RCMP and I understand they have to protect themselves. But those people were mentally ill. How has it come to this?”

The discussions will be co-hosted by Maureen McTeer, wife of former prime minister Joe Clark. Arlene Hache, a social advocate from Yellowknife, will also attend.

According to the United Nations Human Development Index, which measures health through longevity, educational achievement and adult literacy, First Nations people in Canada rank 63rd in the world.

Likewise, the Community Well Being (CWB) scale for First Nations, developed by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, which measures education, labour force participation, income and housing, indicates that Aboriginal communities represent 65 of the 100 unhealthiest Canadian communities.

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