“I want people to understand that even those who support doing away with racism — those who believe that racism is bad — are themselves caught up in a system that almost forces them to continue to adhere to policies and beliefs that they don't understand. It comes from a history of racism, and until we address that and learn from it, we can't even begin to fix it.”
Manitoba Senator Murray Sinclair, Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner
We are all related. But the sad reality is that we are not all treated equally. Manitoba has the highest percentage of First Nations peoples of all Canadian provinces. Due to colonialism and racist policies, the health of First Nations people in Manitoba has worsened compared to other groups.
- The relative gap for premature death between First Nations and all other Manitobans widened by 51%
- For First Nations men, the relative gap in years of life lost increased by 32%
- The absolute gap in life expectancy between First Nations and all other Manitobans increased from about eight years to about 11 years over time
- Despite higher rates of hospitalizations and more days in hospital for First Nations people, First Nations people had a higher decrease in visits to primary care compared with other Manitobans
None of this is inevitable. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has highlighted the striking health disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations in the country. Calls to Action 18-24 and 55 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report relate directly to health care, as do Sections 3 (Health And Wellness) and Section 7 (Health and Wellness Service Providers) of the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
One of the main areas of concern for the health of Indigenous peoples is mental health and suicide. The Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth released a Special Report in 2021 (Finding the Way Back) which found that "far too many boys in Manitoba die by suicide and homicide, and that these preventable deaths are most often taking the lives of First Nations boys in our communities" and includes the following recommendation:
The Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth recommends that the Department of Health and Seniors Care, together with front-line addiction service providers in Manitoba, Healthy Child Manitoba (now the Social Innovation Office), Indigenous communities, and subject matter experts on addictions, immediately respond to the lack of effective substance use treatment services for youth by prioritizing the development and implementation of a youth addiction action strategy. This strategy should be based on best practice evidence with the objective of ensuring that children and youth across Manitoba can exercise their right to the highest attainable standards of health.
MHC endorses this and all recommendations of the reports discussed in this section. We are dedicated to working in partnership and community to advance truth and reconciliation in the healthcare system, in our communities and in our own actions.
Mental Health Resources:
Hope For Wellness Helpline:1-855-242-3310
Kid's Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868; or text CONNECT to 686868 OR text FIRST NATIONS, INUIT or METIS for an appropriate crisis responder
Manitoba Suicide Prevention and Support Line (toll free): 1-877-435-7170
24-hour Youth Crisis Services in Winnipeg: 204-949-4777
24-hour Youth Crisis Services outside Winnipeg: 1-888-383-2776
Residential School Survivor Support Line: 1-866-925-4419