Northern Ontario Social Emergencies Summit
Joint Statement from Federal, Provincial, and First Nations Leaders
Grand Chief Jonathon Solomon of the Mushkegowuk Council, Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh of the Grand Council Treaty #3, Deputy Grand Chief Jason Smallboy of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Minister of Health Jane Philpott, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett, Ontario Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation David Zimmer, and Ontario Minster of Health and Long-Term Care Eric Hoskins issued the following statement today:
"This week in Thunder Bay, First Nations and representatives of the provincial and federal governments are meeting to discuss new strategies to respond to social emergencies in remote First Nation communities in Ontario. These remote communities are often isolated, fly-in only or are hours away from the nearest urban centre, resulting in limited access to health and social services.
As part of The Journey Together: Ontario's Commitment to Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, Ontario made a commitment to work with First Nations and the federal government to hold a summit on social emergencies. Mushkegowuk Council is coordinating the two-day summit, with participation from Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Grand Council Treaty #3, impacted independent First Nations, Canada and Ontario.
The provincial and federal governments and First Nations have come together to learn from recent events and discuss more effective ways of dealing with social emergencies. The discussions will lead to the development of a new response process designed to more effectively respond to social emergencies and ensure that communities get the support they need.
First Nations leadership plays a critical role in advocating for their communities and working with other levels of government to ensure community members get the health and social supports they need. While the federal government is ultimately responsible for most funding for health and social services on reserve, both levels of government have a role in responding to social emergencies in remote First Nations when they arise.
The parties recognize that the establishment of a protocol and implementation of an improved response process for social emergencies is a positive development and that there is still a need for greater focus on the provision of services and support to remote First Nation communities to prevent such emergencies from occurring.
The parties hope to finalize the social emergencies protocol later this spring."
“The draft protocol for social emergencies in remote First Nations is a positive development and once implemented, will assist First Nation leadership, community service providers and both levels of government to respond to the urgent needs of individuals and families in a timely and coordinated manner. However, our focus cannot be limited to responding to crisis. We must prioritize putting in place community-based treatment and support services that are culturally-relevant to support individuals and families, which will go a long way to preventing social emergencies from occurring.”
“Protocols are in place with our federal and provincial Treaty partners to help NAN First Nations cope with natural disasters such as forest fires and seasonal flooding, but there is still nothing in place to address the suicide crisis and other social emergencies that continue to claim lives in our communities. I am optimistic that commitments from the governments of Canada and Ontario will help us take a positive step towards clarifying and formalizing a joint response to assist First Nations with all forms of crisis.”
“Social emergencies have become a harsh new reality which has caused tremendous heartache for our families and communities and created significant stress on our organizations and available resources. The uncertainty around government response to our community's social emergencies needs to change and the summit is a positive step towards that change.”
Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh
“Today our government reaffirms our commitment to address critical social emergencies in remote First Nation communities. First Nations people deserve equal access to health and social services as everyone else who lives in Ontario. We are committed to working with our federal counterparts and First Nations leadership to create safe, healthy communities that will improve the overall well-being of First Nations people.”
“Our government has been and remains committed to supporting First Nations in crisis. While we must ensure that effective emergency protocols are in place and the appropriate support is provided to communities in crisis, Ontario is working together with First Nations partners and the federal government to develop a long-term plan to address the underlying issues and health inequities facing Ontario’s First Nations and indigenous people to prevent such tragedies in the future.”
“All First Nations communities deserve access to critical health, social and emergency services in times of crisis. This Summit and the resulting protocol will ensure we continue to work together responding to social emergencies and better meet the needs of First Nations people. We are committed to learn from and work with all of our partners - federal, provincial, and First Nations - so those living in remote communities feel secure and cared for.”
“I agree with First Nations leaders that community-designed and driven approaches are the most effective means to both prevent crisis and support healing. The Government of Canada will continue to work with First Nations leaders and other levels of government to support community solutions that will help address the social determinants of health and that will markedly improve the wellbeing of communities.”