The issue:
Northern health care
We say:
Needs Indigenous input

Health care in the North is a precarious topic and it has been for as long as southern governments have been leaving their footprint in the North.

The most glaring oversight in many cases is access to health care. Most communities do not have full time doctors or even nurses to treat what ails them – many rely on travelling medical staff to do rotations. Often those providing care in the North and not from these, or similar, communities.

What has been missing from the conversation for a long time though people are trying is the cultural sensitivity of health care that incorporates the Indigenous experience. Being treated for an illness can be a very personally invasive and uncomfortable experience and that is heightened when a practitioner does not speak the same first language.

It is often repeated, even to southerners using the Canadian health-care system, is that you have to be your own advocate when it comes to being treated. That disconnect becomes even wider when there are immense cultural differences between traditional healing and Western medicine.

These reasons, and a lack of action in moving toward a more inclusive future in health care, is what has motivated Hotıì ts’eeda and its chairperson John B. Zoe to take on a new initiative with Canadian Institutes of Health Research Strategy for Patient Oriented Research (SPOR) and its Support for People and Patient-Oriented Research and Trials (SUPPORT) in association with Aurora College and the University of Alberta to complete more research.

“It not only highlights important health research taking place in the NWT, it also shows what respectful research partnerships that create spaces for Indigenous control and decision making can look like,” said Zoe in a recent article about the collaboration (Tlicho project envisions culturally appropriate health care in the North, News/North Oct. 5).

Having Elders and members of Indigenous communities is vital to moving forward with these imitativeness because academics could study the North to death but there is “nothing about us without us,” as the adage about Indigenous representation goes. No one is better slated to describe exactly what the issues and solutions are in the Canadian health-care system.

The Health Centre in Sambaa K’e, formerly Trout Lake, Dec. 2019.
photo by/courtesy of Donna Fradley (Charles Tetcho School principal)

This initiative is mostly rooted in working with the Tlicho, but the principles would remain the same throughout the territory. Being a grassroots project it will take the will of the people in those areas to work with institutions and governments around them to make this happen.

More than anything this project and the success of Hotıì ts’eeda has highlighted the need for a university in the North. An institution that has research agreements with other universities and organizations like Hotıì ts’eeda would provide the North with opportunities to study and find solutions for issues that have been nagging at residents for decades. It could be by Northerners, for Northerners.

Until the finer details of a polytechnic university in the NWT are hammered out, those willing to step up into the void and complete the research that will ultimately benefit the under served members of the community should be praised and have reduced barriers to funding.


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