The wonders of the English language. A few words in one era come to mean a complete infrastructure in another era or century that costs endless billions. And there are so many yuppies in Ottawa who can't stand up to their own screaming kids, they ought to learn to stand up for taxpayers. Dentists are already making a billion a year off the poorest, unhealthiest people in Canada, why continue the madness?
Excellent medical care is already available in a country called Canada, they are in places called cities. No race tests are required for treatment.
Medicare debatable treaty right (external - login to view)
By Mark Lemstra, Special to The StarPheonix March 8, 2012
Aboriginal people are more likely to suffer from every disease and disorder that we monitor in comparison to non-aboriginal Canadians. This is regrettable, because the disparity in health outcomes clearly is preventable.
In response, some First Nations leaders advocate that access to health care is a treaty right for Registered Indians and, as such, the quantity and quality of care provided on reserves should be much better. The worry with this advocacy position is what happens if someone looks up what the treaties actually say.
Eleven treaties were signed in Canada. Only one of these - Treaty 6 - mentions health or health care. The wording in Treaty 6 states: "A medicine chest shall be kept at the house of each Indian Agent for the use and benefit of the Indians at the direction of such agent."
Since only one treaty mentions health care, does this mean that all other Registered Indians on reserves in the remaining 10 treaty areas should not have access to health care? What about non-registered Indians? As well, the wording of Treaty 6 is limited. In today's context, a medicine chest could mean anything from a first aid box to prescription medications.
The federal government has done the right thing to date and chosen to interpret the medicine chest clause liberally, and fully reimburse prescription medication costs for First Nations persons on reserves across Canada even if they are not part of Treaty 6. In fact, Ottawa reimburses prescription medication costs for Registered Indians living off-reserve.
That said, some advocate that the medicine chest can be interpreted to mean full medicare coverage. However, there were doctors, surgery, diagnostic services and so on at the time when Treaty 6 was signed. If the treaty intended to include these services, why were these not mentioned?
This brings us to oral promises. The federal government has published orders in council that convey the discussions held between it and Indians prior to signing treaties. Only the discussion on Treaty 8 mentions health care and states:
"We promised that supplies of medicines would be put in the charge of persons selected by the government at different points, and would be distributed free to those of the Indians who might require them. We explained that it would be practically impossible for the government to arrange for regular medical attendance upon Indians so widely scattered over such an extensive territory."
Despite this prior conversation, the actual wording of Treaty 8 specifically describes what 'bounty and benevolence" the Indian people may count upon, and health care is not included.
Given the limited context of the medicine chest - at the discretion of the Indian agent - the right of Registered Indians to receive health care has never been acknowledged by the federal government or decided by the courts.
That said, the case of Kruger et al vs. the Crown (1985) indicates that government actions cannot be unreasonable or create undue hardship for Indians.
With all of these limitations, it is perhaps ironic that many Indian leaders, such as AFN Chief Shawn Atleo, advocate dismantling the Indian Act. At the AFN's recent annual meeting in Winnipeg, Atleo stated that Indians are still fighting for health care promises made in treaties more than a century ago.
Not really. It is legislation within the Indian Act (not treaties) that ensures comprehensive health care coverage. Section 73.1 states the governor in council may make regulations "to prevent, mitigate and control the spread of diseases on reserves, whether or not the diseases are infectious or communicable," and "to provide medical treatment and health services for Indians."
Repealing the Indian Act without a replacement, and reverting to the treaties would be disastrous for First Nations.
Vast health disparities between First Nations and other Canadians have been observed for more than 100 years. Obviously, new ideas need to be proposed and considered. Better health outcomes will not be obtained with more litigation over what century-old treaties might or might not say. That said, aboriginal leaders will not walk away from treaties signed with Canada.
Given that most health services are now provided by provinces, it seems reasonable to discuss signing new treaties to include provincial governments. Given 100 years of failure, it is also imperative that the federal, provincial and aboriginal governments specifically state what services they will provide, and what outcomes they will be held accountable to. At that time, we can abandon the Indian Act.