'If nobody's listening, it's like firewood' advocate says of latest report on Indigenous Quebecers' health
MONTREAL -- A study released by Health Montreal on Friday found a large gap between the health and wealth circumstances of the city’s Indigenous population and the general citizenry.
The report found that 33 per cent of Indigenous Montrealers will have suicidal thoughts during their lifetime, compared to nine per cent in the general population. They are also more likely to be tobacco smokers, less likely to perceive themselves as being in good health.
The median income for Indigenous Montrealers is $22,000, compared to $26,900 among all Montrealers and 25 per cent have a university degree while 40 per cent of the overall population has that level of education.
The study comes as a response to calls for action following the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which filed its final report in 2015. In that report it was recommended that cities identify gaps in healthcare for Indigenous Canadians and find ways to close them.
According to the Health Montreal report there are 13,000 people living on the island who identify as Indigenous, the largest population of any Quebec city. That’s an increase of 55 per cent between 2006 and 2016.
The report recommended establishing, in collaboration with Indigenous advocacy groups, an urban Indigenous health surveillance system in order to obtain better data. It also called for establishing “culturally safe” services, such as “care settings where Indigenous people are treated with empathy, dignity and respect.”
Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal Executive Director Nakuset said she’s more interested in how the report’s conclusions will be applied than in the report itself.
“It’s nice they put together this really big document but at the end of the day, who is actually going to apply it?” she said. “If we’re having difficulty accessing services at hospitals and CLSCs and those institutions don’t apply it then it’s the same as it always was.”
In 2019 a commission chaired by Jacques Viens found numerous failures in Quebec’s treatment of Indigenous people and included dozens of suggestions for police, social workers and healthcare professionals to better serve that population. Nakuset said she has yet to see any of those recommendations implemented.
“Whose job is it to apply it?” she said. “Then you have the 231 recommendations from (the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls report) that also have something to do with the health field and nothing’s been applied. It’s great they’re doing all these reports but if nobody’s listening, it’s like firewood.”