First Nations Leaders meet on Health in North Vancouver
North Vancouver – First Nations leaders from the Vancouver Coastal Health Region and their technical health advisors met in North Vancouver February 15th & 16th as part of the ongoing process to reform health services for First Nations in BC. Part of the ongoing community engagement process, the Vancouver Coastal Caucus is comprised of representatives of the 14 First Nations located in the Vancouver Coastal Health Region and is tied in to the broader BC-wide First Nations Health Council process.
The two-day meeting is part of ongoing work that is being done throughout BC under a series of agreement s with Canada and BC. The Vancouver Coastal Caucus members have been working together to guide the development of a new health governance arrangement for BC First Nations. The meeting included 21 representatives from 11 Nations in the region and included leadership and health directors as well as support staff from the interim First Nations Health Authority.The Caucus opened with a special presentation to Charles Nelson (member of the Nuxalk Nation) with a blanket in a traditional Coast Salish ceremony recognizing his hard work and contribution to the process. Mr. Nelson sat for two years as a member of the FNHC, chosen by the VCC from the Central Coast, and also served as the Chair of the VCC. Mr. Nelson has resigned from his position on the FNHC and as the Chair of the VCC but will continue to participate in the Caucus as a health technical member for the Nuxalk Nation.
“I hold my hands up to you (Charles Nelson) and to the family for recognizing our good friend here for all the work he’s done. That blanket symbolizes our kinship and friendship with you; represents the respect we have for you” Councillor Chris Syeta’xtn Lewis – Squamish Nation
Prior to his position on the FNHC, Charles served for two years on the First Nations Interim Health Governance Committee – an advisory position that helped guide the Health Council through its early iteration.
“I would like to thank everybody – I really enjoyed doing the work as the Chair. I’m happy to see Ernest (Armann) taking on the role. It’s a big job. I know he’ll do a good job. Thank you everybody for allowing me to do the work”. Charles Nelson – Nuxalk Nation and former FNHC member and Chair of the Vancouver Coastal Caucus.
Ernest Armann, FNHC representative for the Southern St’at’imc, provided an update on recent Health Council business. Mr. Armann’s presentation included a discussion on the interim First Nations Health Authority board of directors who are seeking expressions of interest to replace some members of the board whose term is up. Representatives raised some questions regarding who is eligible for the Board positions and its role. Representatives were asked to alert their Councils of the opportunity to serve on the Board.
Mr. Armann also led a discussion on the budget and work plan for the Regional Caucus in the coming year, with a discussion following. The costs for the Vancouver Coastal Caucus meetings are included in the budget but the support services (provided by the iFNHA) are not, being covered by the overarching budget.
Mr. Armann also spoke to the need to appoint the Health Council positions before June (their two-year terms are expiring later this year). The two-year mandate the FNHC received is coming to an end and the Nations must either re-appoint their representative or appoint new ones. This will be done through sub-regional meetings in the months prior to the June gathering of BC Chiefs. As happened two years ago; First Nations will determine their appointees to the FNHC collectively in the sub-regions.
The Caucus session had several key topics on the agenda, including a review of the “Navigating Currents of Change: Managing the Transition to a New First Nations Health Governance Structure” workbook. The workbook will be used to garner input and advice from BC First Nations on what form a permanent First Nations Health Authority should take. The workbook will be used in sub-regional meetings in coming months. During the caucus the sub-regions broke into their groups to determine meeting dates for follow-up work to go over the workbooks.
The BC Chiefs voted in May 2011 in favour of signing the Framework Agreement and to take control of Health Canada’s BC operations (First Nations Inuit Health Pacific Region) through a First Nations Health Authority. The FNHC was given one year to bring back suggested structures for review by BC Chiefs in June of 2012.
The Vancouver Coastal Caucus also finalized their Terms of Reference, which had been revised and adopted in principle. Several minor changes were made and the Terms of Reference were approved with a few modifications.
With the resignation by Mr. Nelson, the Vancouver Coastal Caucus needs to fill the vacant seat for the Central Coast on the First Nations Health Council. The four Nations from the Central Coast will decide on a replacement as regional representative to sit on the Health Council. The Central Coast representatives had an informal meeting that was marked by a remarkable collaboration that focused on the good of the region. It was decided to take the matter back to the respective Councils of the Heiltsuk, Nuxalk, Kitasoo and Wuikinuxv to put names forward.
Since Mr. Nelson stepped down as the Chair of the VCC, the Caucus addressed the vacancy. Ernest Armann, long-time representative for the Southern St’at’imc sub-region was acclaimed in the role of Chair. Mr. Armann has been involved in the health reform process since early in the process and has served as a member on the First Nations Health Council for the past two years.
The Caucus also reviewed a draft Vancouver Coastal Partnership Accord between the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, the interim First Nations Health Authority and the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. The draft agreement was approved of in principle and will be refined and reviewed. The development of Partnership Accords follows the workplan as agreed to by BC Chiefs. The Vancouver Coastal Partnership Accord follows the first such Accord which was signed between the Fraser Health Authority and Fraser Salish Nations in December 2011.
The Vancouver Coastal Partnership Accord is made in the spirit of partnership and joint commitment to the well-being of all Aboriginal people living in the Vancouver Coastal region, regardless of Nationhood, status and location. Draft Vancouver Coastal Partnership Accord – Preamble.
The Accord is intended to improve health outcomes for First Nations people by involving First Nations in the setting of health priorities and standards in the Health Authority’s services. Caucus members will take the information on the draft Accord back to their respective Nations for review. It is hoped that the Vancouver Coastal Partnership Accord can be finalized by June and is anticipated that a signing ceremony will occur at the annual Gathering Wisdom Forum.
A Regional table (tied to the establishment of a Health Partnership Accord with the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority) will be created that assist in coordinating work among First Nations, the Health Authority and the federal government.
The next step will be holding meetings in each of the sub-regions; South (Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast, Southern St’at’imc, and Central Coast (Heiltsuk, Nuxalk, Kitasoo and Wuikinuxv).