Health Canada is the department responsible for ensuring that the special needs of on-reserve First Nations communities are considered during the planning for and response to a pandemic. As part of this, Health Canada collaborates with First Nations to address pandemic planning, health barriers and disease threats, and to attain levels comparable to other Canadians living in similar locations.
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) will support Health Canada's pandemic preparedness and response efforts, collaborate with provinces and territories as required, fulfill its role to provide emergency management on all reserve lands across Canada, except where the responsibility (e.g. public health) falls within the mandate of another federal department (i.e. Health Canada) and ensure that there are no disruptions to community-level critical services in collaboration with First Nations.
The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is the national representative organization for First Nation Governments in Canada. Through resolution, First Nation leadership provides direction for advocacy, policy development and advancement of First Nation positions by the National Chief and National Executive. The AFN, in relation to a pandemic, seeks to enhance the direct engagement of First Nation governments on the issue of H1N1 through information, communication, facilitation and advocacy.
(i) First Nations communities often face additional challenges in providing services to residents due to their size (lacking certain services and supplies within their communities), and their geographic location (remote or isolated which affects access to goods and services).
(ii) Many First Nations communities experience fiscal and structural challenges that heighten pandemic risk such as poverty, over crowded housing and a lack of access to water within their homes. Despite improvements, gaps also remain in the overall health status of First Nations communities compared to other Canadians.
(iii) During the spring of 2009 the H1N1 virus impacted several First Nations communities particularly hard.
The Parties are resolute in entering into a Communications Protocol as one means to prepare and respond to a pandemic in the fall of 2009 and winter of 2010.
The purpose of the communications protocol is to ensure a coordinated approach between the parties for issues related to planning and communications regarding a pandemic in First Nations communities.
The objectives of the protocol include:
This protocol is not legally binding on the parties. The parties may request that this protocol be reviewed, amended or replaced by providing two (2) months written notice to the other party. A process to review, amend or replace this protocol must be undertaken within a timeframe agreed to by both parties at the commencement of that process. Any party may withdraw from this protocol by providing written notice to the other party. The withdrawal is effective 30 days after written notice is provided.
All parties understand that this protocol is intended to be in compliance with all applicable authorities and policies. Furthermore, the focus of this protocol is on communications and does not involve funding.
Signed in Ottawa on
September 19, 2009
The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health
The Honourable Chuck Strahl,
Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and
Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians
National Chief Shawn Atleo, Assembly of First Nations