Health status of Canadian aboriginals Essay

The term aborigine was first used to the first inhabitants of Canada prior to the arrival of the colonialists. This time Canada was populated by a diverse range of Aborigines who due to their environment led nomadic lifestyle and those that were near the lakes were fishers. Today, more than half of the Aborigines live on reserves while others live and work in cities across Canada. Aborigines speak more than thirty different languages many of which are only used in Canada.

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Just like in America where we know very little about the Red Indian before the arrival of Christopher Columbus, the art of writing at this time was not anywhere developed in America the same was also in Canada. Those people were not civilized and developed. They had no knowledge of using metal and thus most of the tools they had were made of stone. These Canadians were few in number and at this time, Canada had about 220,000 natives from Atlantic to the pacific

 Aboriginals are constitutionary recognized in the Canadian constitution act 1982, section 25. Those people even today do not accept that their sovereignty rights are extinct. Aborigines were indigenous people who relied on their traditional laws and government to choose their leaders. Today they are not seen as the minority under the statistics act of Canada. They were victims of apartheid rule. The colonialists grabbed their land without consent and put them into reserves

            During the early years after their origin according to (Mauer, 2001, p.168) the aborigines grew only by 29% while the whole population doubled. They multiplied very slowly. This slow growth rate continued until 1960s when infant mortality rate reduced because of the improved health care availability. In 2001, the median age was 13 and their population of 1,066,500 represented only 3.4% of the whole population. The recent censuses according to (Marmor 2002) show that the aborigines are growing at a very high pace and they are expected to grow at an average annual rate of 1.8% twice and over the rate of the general population.

            The Canadian aboriginal women are not of the same social status with men. They are prone to exploitations and attacks compared to Canadian women. The aboriginal women are about eight times at risk of being killed by their spouses after separating than three times for Canadian women. Their vulnerability to assaults is being perpetuated by the economic marginalization and a history of colonialist government policies. Indian women who marry outside their communities are denied social status. Most aboriginal women  do not report cases of assaults because they think they will not be given the attention they deserve. There are some measures which have been suggested that could reverse this situation these are fostering economic independence, arresting abusers and other steps taken against this cycle of violence.

            Nationally about 4.4% of Canadians have aboriginal ancestry and there are 608 first nations comprising of 52 nations or cultural groups. Indian population has a median of 25 compared to the median of 35 for Canadian. The distribution gender of male to female is 49.51 which are almost like that of Canadian.

 Aboriginal’s econ progress has been significant in Atlantic Canada. They’ve been working hard to promote economic development. While aboriginal people and communities in Atlantic Canada face many obstacles and challenges, they get many opportunities to participate in the economy. Although there are a lot of difficulties that face aboriginals, many are determined to participate in the economy.

The aboriginals had knowledge of the diseases for example; they attended the immigrants that went to North America who were suffering from malnutrition and diseases. They are regarded as the first care works. The oral histories available show that they exceeded 100 years of age. According to the early historical writings and the scientific researches of the day they were able to control diseases and had high levels of mental as well as physical health. When you compare the health status of the Aboriginals lagged behind. The health of aborigines was a historical and a complex thing.                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Different authors have explored the changes in health patterns of the aborigines. They tried to look at different aspects of their culture in the place of medicine. Many aborigines experienced a number of health issues some of which made them to be among the poorest people in Canada in terms of health. In other words their health level was at the bottom in that country. These people did not have long life expectancies when compared to those of others. This is because they experienced more violent and tragic deaths like suicides and increased levels of infant mortality rate. Most of these aborigines suffered from various conditions of chronic health. These were diseases like diabetes, tuberculosis, arthritis and cancer.

          Aborigines had their own health policies dubbed as aboriginal health policy. This was designed by the aborigine’s community representatives and the Ontario ministry of health in 1994. These policies were designed by them to assist the ministry of health to address the problem of inequalities among the aborigines. Their policies touched on three strategic fields namely health status, accessibility to health services as well as planning and representation. The aboriginal health status addresses the Aboriginals’ poor health status, lack of proper coordination, the inequality of funding and the over emphasized treatment as opposed to well being. The next policy (Leatt, P., 2002) was of language access of the aborigines, cultural concerns and client advocacy, lack of concern over workers welfare and lack of valuing the traditional healers as well as the role they play in the health sector. The last policy was about planning and representation. It tried to address barriers like failure of understanding and acknowledging the issues of aboriginals, biases in cultural related things, exclusion of aborigines in decision making strategies and to create awareness to the aborigines on their right to the available services.

            According to (Clatworthy S.J and Cooke M., 2001) a comparison survey that was made done with respect to the group identity for example to North American, Indian, Métis and Inuit and their geographical locations (like reserve urban rural and north) showed that when geographical location is compared with their identity, it looked like there was a big impact when it came to health status and using doctor services. For example the studies showed that aborigines rarely visited their geographical locations in terms of accessing health care. The problems they faced included drugs, cancer, arthritis and cancer. The solutions to these problems included providing people with relevant education, counseling and guiding services and lastly by making access to service easier.

            Canada claimed to have one of best health care in the world and that it provided health access to all citizens according to the 1984 health act. This access was not clearly defined and although it was mostly defined as smoothening of access to medically necessary service to all without the citizens paying for those services. A broader definition of the term access is that which is given by the medical institute of America which defined the term as timely availability of health care so as to achieve the best results. Going by this definition, most aboriginals who dwell on the reserve often reported lack of good health care, lack of access to physicians and other medically qualified personnel than the rest of the Canadian population. In 2003, the Canadian’s medical association called for more timely health care and relevant health care to be provided to the aboriginal citizens.

            The problem that health care providers encountered while trying to treat aborigines were; language barriers, lack of personnel who could interpret their language and the fact that there were many cultural practices when it came to health medicine and diseases. Also some reserves aren’t accessible this made it cumbersome in giving services; many aborigines lived in isolated places where provincial funding was inefficient. Because some reserves were not accessible some communities did not get the attention they deserved. Results also showed that there was shortage of health care attendants. This forced people to move for long distance to urban centers to look for medical attention. Distance to health care determined whether or not a person living in a reserve will have access to health care. Most of delivery services were centralized therefore utilization of healthcare services like referral-care that required careful procedures like those for treating diabetes cases could not sometimes be utilized as the distance from them and residence area increased.

            While access to health care is determined by the distance to health service, thorough knowledge of the health status of the aborigines should involve examination of holistic approach to all health related issues like poverty, education and unemployment. If solutions to these problems are to be realized then a comprehensive analysis of the problem should be undertaken. In the past the main focus had been on cost and largely ignoring the quality and choice of health care. For these reforms to be meaningful, then all the factors should be considered and accessibility to quality primary and special care be increased. Provision of proper health care gives a healthy nation. For these health issues to be solved, a down to top approach should be practiced because it is citizens who understand their problems well. The problem with managed healthcare is the focus of administration where mandate is trusted with the insurance companies.  The patients and doctors are at the receiving end. In a nutshell all I am saying is this, if solution to medical access problems are to be solved, then all the factors should be given the attention they deserve. There should not be over-reliance on the issue of cost. And if cost is to be checked, attention should be directed to where treatment is not well –utilized. Also if quality and choice of medical care is to be guaranteed and provided, then patients and doctors must be included in decision making discussions. Lastly, if access is to be universal then proper strategies to ensuring access to all areas should be taken.

            According to the hospital report 2001-2007 which is a joint initiative of the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) and the government of Ontario that was formed in 2000(Canadian Medical Association, 2003) they aim at helping citizens to understand and assess services provided by letting the hospitals know how they are doing in relation to others so that they could see their strong and weak points. The health policies of Canada make it to be ahead of other nations in the whole world. As the economic resources diminish, the current challenge that Canada is facing is how it can provide health services to all and within the barriers posed by the changing social-economic and political climate.

            The barriers of creating health policies were outlined in the mandate of the future of health care commission of Canada. In 2002, it pointed that the government would make sure that there would be a sustainable accessibility of health care that would give quality services. In 1994, five different classes of factors that made the Canadian health were identified by the federal provincial and territorial advisory committee. These factors were the economic, social environment, physical environment, health practices professionalism and in general health services.

It was maintained that if all these were given proper considerations they required then proper health care strategies would be reached. These would ensure that the whole population of Canada is well taken care of health wise.

            Despite these attempts that are made so that the health status is improved, the view that it is only doctors and hospital who can improve the health care provision is prominent. Health is defined as the general well being of the body and not necessary lack of disease. Nowadays, health has incorporated social and economic conditions.

            There have been many changes that have been implemented in health sector of Canada. For example, the constitution act of 1867 gave federal government some powers to take care of the marine hospital and quarantine and the provinces were entrusted with the role of creating maintaining and managing hospital, taking care of asylums and charity institutions. In 1993, the responsibilities of the federal government increased for example the responsibility of taking care and providing health care to the Indians and Inuit people, government workers, immigrants and civil aviation people, also the work of investigating in to public health food and drugs provision and distribution administration of health care facilities and insurance as well as searching for and providing the general and health related in formations.

            After sometime later, the provincial roles also were added. Initially their role was to take care of matters of local and private look but later the health matters increased and these roles fell on the provincial administration. These new responsibilities that befell on federal and provincial government either constitutionally made or established, added weight to the other complexities facing the Canadian government in the health sector. These complexities were things such as geographical location, social economic divisions and external pressures. Later both the federal and provincial governments met many times to assess and review the basis of beliefs and structures farming the policies. In 1980s, a royal committee was founded in every province to examine the health care related issues. In 1994 a national forum was founded by the federal government and in 1997 it concurred with the provincial administration in finding the funding strategies for healthcare that were viable. This act was aimed at ensuring free access to health care and services for all people (Canadian Aboriginals Aids Network, 2004)

             Economic status is a key factor that contributes to the death morbidity as well as disabilities. In Canada, people in lower paying jobs die more than well paid people. Age is also something that should be of concern to the policy makers. People die at their tender age (Gone J.P. 2004) due to biological and social changes for example, most deaths are brought by suicide, cancer and homicide while the aging Canadians die of age related chronic diseases like heart diseases; arthritis senility as well as Alzheimer.

            There are other policies that if implemented could improve the lives of Canadians for example if Canadian cities are well designed then social activities improved then both habits and quality of life could be changed and improved. In order for the health status to be improved also social economic concerns should be taken in to consideration. These are things like education. Again if new drugs are invented to cure diseases then more lives could be saved. Finally, policies that could reverse inequitability should be made so that the population could be more sensitive to gender needs.

            To conclude this discussion we can say that the health life of Canadians has undergone several stages to be what it is now and still there is more that need to be done. At first the health care was not accessible but now it is. In achieving healthcare development goals, Canadians have realized that all people irrespective of their ethic background must work hand in hand for positive changes to be realized. Although there are improvements in the health sector, many aboriginals still suffer more and are at risk of dying at a tender age than the Canadian population in whole but still we cannot fail to acknowledge the improvements that have been made in this sector.


1)      Clatworthy S.J and Cooke M., 2001. Reasons For Registered Indian Migration Research And Analysis Directorate, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

2)      Canadian Medical Association, 2003. CMA Policy: The Health of Aboriginal People 2002: Canadian Medical Association Journal.

3)      Cook C.D. And Beaujot R., 1996. Labor Force Interruptions. The Influence of Marital Status and Presence of Young Children: Canadian Journal of Sociology

4)      Canadian Aboriginal AIDS network. 2004. The Community based HIV/AID research environmental scan. Ottawa, Ontario

5)      Gone J.P., 2004.Mental Health Services for Native Americans in the 21st Century United States: Professional psychology.

6)      Leatt, P.2002. The Health Transition fund: Integrated service delivery (synthesis report) Health Canada.

7)      Mauer A. and Anderson R., 2001. Canadian Aboriginal Communities: A Framework for Injury Surveillance, Health Promotion International

8)      Marmor T., 2002. National Values Institution and Health Policies: What Do They Imply for Medicare Reform?” Discussion Paper No. 5 Prepared for The Commission on The Future of Health Care in Canada.

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