This time our Medal of Irony goes to Prime Minister Stephen Harper whose support for maternal health in the developing world comes amidst cutbacks to First Nations health services when those same services are already desperate for more resources.
At the June 2010 G8 Summit hosted by Canada, Harper pledged $2.85 billion over five years to keep mothers and babies healthy in the developing world. At a follow-up meeting in May 2014, Harper committed another $3.5-billion in funding to improve the health of moms and kids in low-income countries. Harper has designated this program as a signature priority, saying:
“There is a moral imperative to saving the lives of vulnerable women and children in some of the poorest countries around the world when it is in our power to do so,” Mr. Harper said in a press release issued on Thursday. “It is unacceptable that these vulnerable global citizens die from preventable causes which can be addressed with proven, affordable and cost effective solutions – some costing mere pennies.”*
In March 2012, just two years after the G8 summit, the Harper government terminated funding for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and the National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO), which were Canada’s only organizations dedicated to developing common health policies for more than 600 Aboriginal groups in Canada.
Seen by First Nations as an attack on their leadership on health issues in their communities, the funding terminations came at a time when one in four children on Canada’s First Nations reserves lives in poverty. In 2010, an extensive study of infant mortality in Manitoba showed that the death rate for Aboriginal babies was more than twice the Canadian average.
In this context, it’s vital that all Canadians recognize that First Nations communities across Canada are facing epidemic levels of diabetes, hypertension, HIV/AIDS, substance misuse, youth suicide, and depression.