Stronger, healthier communities
Ontario has set out to develop and implement programs and actions that are developed and evaluated in close partnership with Indigenous communities. Ontario is also working to incorporate Indigenous Elder and youth perspectives into decision-making across government, with the understanding that reconciliation cannot be compartmentalized. Only through unlearning the patterns of previous generations and replacing them with new, healthy relationships can we work towards stronger, healthier communities.
Improving drinking water
Too many First Nations people living on-reserve don’t have access to safe, clean drinking water that others living in Ontario take for granted. In mandate letters to the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation and the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, the premier directed the ministers to work with the federal government and First Nation communities towards a five-year plan to provide First Nation communities with access to safe drinking water.
The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change has been providing engineering and technical support to communities, including conducting onsite assessments of existing drinking water systems to support communities in achieving long-term sustainability. The ministry has also provided funding to support operator training, as well as source protection planning in communities. In 2017, Ontario and Canada announced funding that has been committed to 239 projects in 117 First Nation communities across the province.
Ontario is working with First Nations and the federal government to ensure remote communities receive support to manage social emergencies.
In March 2017, the Mushkegowuk Tribal Council hosted the Social Emergencies Summit in Thunder Bay, where delegates from Nishnawbe-Aski Nation, Grand Council Treaty #3, Mushkegowuk, remote independent First Nations, provincial ministries, federal departments and social service providers came together.
Ontario continues to work with First Nations partners and the federal government to finalize a tripartite social emergencies protocol that would clarify roles and responsibilities of each jurisdiction.
Ontario’s First Nations Health Action Plan
The Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation is working alongside the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, which is leading government work on Ontario’s First Nation Health Action Plan. The action plan is working to ensure First Nations people have access to more culturally appropriate care and improved outcomes, focusing on the North, where there are significant gaps in health services.
Ontario’s First Nations Action Plan includes:
- The creation of 16 new or expanded Indigenous-governed and community-driven inter-professional primary care teams across Ontario, which will provide culturally safe primary health care services and programs to more than 70,000 Indigenous people, including individuals and families living in remote and fly-in communities.
- Direct funding to each of the 133 First Nations communities in Ontario to strengthen access to culturally appropriate home and community care services, including at-home nursing visits, help with bathing and preparing meals, or transportation for people with mobility challenges. First Nations can use this funding at their discretion, based on the needs they identify.
- Funding 34 Indigenous-led mental health and wellness programs that include traditional healing, and funding more than 100 new mental health workers. Programs will serve more than 69 First Nations communities, as well as urban Indigenous communities in cities such as Toronto, Kenora, Thunder Bay, Barrie, Midland, Sudbury, Ottawa and London.
Aboriginal Healing and Wellness Strategy
One of the longest-running strategies to support culturally appropriate healing and wellness programs is the Aboriginal Healing and Wellness Strategy, which launched in 1994 and is led by the Ministry of Community and Social Services. The strategy provides Indigenous-designed and -delivered residential and non-residential services and supports to individuals, families and communities.
Ontario Indigenous Children and Youth Strategy
In partnership with the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, the Ministry of Children and Youth Services is working with First Nation, Inuit, Métis and urban Indigenous partners to co-implement the Ontario Indigenous Child and Youth Strategy. The strategy seeks to improve outcomes for Indigenous children and youth by transforming the past system of services to one that is rooted in culturally appropriate, preventative, and community-based programs and services that are designed, delivered and governed by and for First Nation, Inuit and Métis peoples.
The strategy is guided by the vision of ensuring Indigenous children are healthy, happy, resilient, grounded in their cultures and languages, and thriving as individuals, as well as members of their families and Nations or communities.
To date, Ontario, as represented by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, has signed two relationship agreements with Grand Council Treaty #3 and Anishinabek Nation-Union of Ontario Indians to strengthen their bilateral relationships through the Strategy.
Indigenous Youth and Community Wellness Secretariat
In the summer of 2017, Ontario established a new Indigenous Youth and Community Wellness Secretariat to work closely with Indigenous partners, other ministries and the federal government. The secretariat, which is part of the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, has offices in both Toronto and Thunder Bay.
The secretariat is working to improve the well-being of Indigenous communities and youth through engagement of Indigenous partners, and the co-development of an action plan. This plan will support youth and their communities as they move from crises toward recovery and wellness.
By organizing and optimizing the efforts of ministries and partners, the secretariat’s aim is to ensure that resources and efforts go where they are most needed. The goal is for Indigenous youth and their communities to get the services and programs they need, where and when they need them.
Promoting Life-Skills in Aboriginal Youth (PLAY)
Ontario partnered with Right To Play by investing in the PLAY program, which uses the power of play to promote healthy lifestyles, build self-esteem and improve life-skills.
Right To Play is a Canadian-based international organization that trains and supports community mentors, who are responsible for delivering the programs at the community level. Programs are tailored to reflect the needs and vision of individual First Nations or urban Indigenous organizations.
The PLAY program started in three communities in Ontario. Leveraging financial support from the province to attract additional supporters, the program has grown to serve young people in more than 60 communities across the province.
The programming creates positive spaces for young people to play, share and grow. It also strengthens communities by building healthy cross-generational relationships between community mentors and young people.
This initiative will provide our youth with an opportunity to build relationships while learning important life skills. Building resilience and confidence of our youth is a priority for the Kenora Chiefs Advisory.Joe Barnes, Executive Director, Kenora Chiefs Advisory