OTTAWA, Nov. 22, 2017 /CNW/ – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde says the Auditor General of Canada’s fall 2017 report released yesterday shows that programs and services that are essential for the wellbeing and future of First Nations people are failing and immediate action is needed.
“Yesterday’s report by the Auditor General sets out findings that are consistent with First Nations experience. What we need now is to work together on a plan to address these critical problems, which are vital to the health and wellbeing of First Nations citizens,” said National Chief Bellegarde.
The report includes a chapter on Preparing Women Offenders for Release—Correctional Service Canada which notes among other findings that Correctional Service Canada (CSC) is using outdated or ineffective assessment tools, is not preparing women offenders for parole hearings, and is not meeting the rehabilitation needs of women offenders. It finds that Indigenous women offenders specifically do not have sufficient or timely access to correctional programs and interventions, especially culturally-based programs.
“The problems in correctional services are especially troubling given the vast over-representation of First Nations women in the justice system,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “The ongoing failures in CSC are further harming First Nations women. They deserve and need access to Elders, healing lodges and other programs and services that will help them heal their mind, body and spirit and get their lives back on track. These supports have proven to be very effective. This is part of our overall goal of realizing First Nations-led restorative justice systems, and overhauling the justice system from policing to courts to recognition of Indigenous law.”
The National Chief also noted the findings and recommendations in the chapter on Oral Health Programs for First Nations and Inuit—Health Canada, which mainly deals with the impacts of dental benefits under the Children’s Oral Health Initiative (COHI). The chapter notes that Health Canada has difficulties tracking and assessing the program.
AFN National Chief Bellegarde said: “It’s clear that First Nations practitioners can be a key component in solving the long term human resource gaps in First Nations communities. This benefits our people and Health Canada. We need to develop an overall strategic vision for First Nations health – including oral health – and First Nations must be full partners in that work. First Nations deserve access to stable, sustainable and culturally appropriate health care no matter where they reside, something most Canadians are able to take for granted. This work cannot wait.”
The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.