Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott did not make new funding commitments during her visits to Attawapiskat and Kashechewan on Thursday, but she met with leaders and youth in the First Nation communities to work toward long-term solutions to their crises.
“I am inspired by their passion and by the ideas that have been discussed,” Phipott said in a statement sent to CBC News.
“[I] look forward to continued conversations, especially with youth, as we work towards improved health and wellness in these communities.”
Philpott’s trip comes nearly two months after a state of emergency was declared in Attawapiskat to deal with a surge of suicide attempts. The visit also follows the annual evacuation of hundreds of people in Kashechewan due to spring flooding.
Philpott was accompanied to the reserves by Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus and senior First Nation leaders.
“There was a lot of frank talk about people who’ve died at the nurses’ station from not being diagnosed,” Angus said.
“Issues of black mold and the effect it has on children and basic health.”
Minister needs to ‘start moving that bureaucracy’
Angus said he believes Philpott understands the issues facing the James Bay communities, but he said more action is needed.
“I think her heart’s in the right place, but she’s going to have to start moving that bureaucracy,” Angus said.
“We’re really dealing in some cases with third world conditions. It’s really affecting the young people especially. It’s really affecting them psychologically and physically.”
In her statement, Philpott said she recognizes that crises are not just happening in Attawapiskat and Kashechewan, but in Indigenous communities across Canada.
“We are committed to meaningful investments in First Nations and Inuit communities across the country that will provide the building blocks necessary for happy and healthy lives, such as better schools and housing, clean water, and improvements for nursing stations,” she said.