Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic April 13, 2012 - 11:06 am

Inuit, First Nations, Métis orgs wanted NAHO wound up, letter says

Aboriginal org bosses wanted three ethnically “distinct” bodies

NUNATSIAQ NEWS

The Assembly of First Nations, the Métis National Council and the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada asked federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq this past November to terminate the National Aboriginal Health Organization, a letter obtained by Nunatsiaq News reveals. (View the letter embedded at bottom of this page.)

“It is clear that the only viable option for advancing First Nations, Inuit and Métis health is to wind down NAHO and work with us to create three legal entities…,” the letter said.

The letter, dated Nov. 28, 2011 and addressed to Aglukkaq, is signed by ITK president Mary Simon, AFN national chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, and Clément Chartier, president of the Métis National Council.

The contents of the letter appear to corroborate Aglukkaq’s explanation for Health Canada’s decision to cut NAHO’s funding and close the organization down by June 30.

Aglukkaq told CBC North radio April 10 that NAHO suffered from “governance” issues and that the national aboriginal organizations wanted the organization shut down.

In their letter to Aglukkaq, the three groups said they want NAHO replaced by three ethnically distinct health research organizations that would be “accountable to the respective peoples.”

Their letter claimed that replacing NAHO with three separate centres would create “cost-efficiencies and savings,” but supplied no financial analysis in the letter to support that assertion.

But Simon, Atleo and Chartier are clear on one issue: they are all opposed to what they call “a pan-Aboriginal governance context.”

“In our views, the members of NAHO have been unable to arrive at a model that is acceptable to us as members,” the letter said.

Another factor appears to have been the longstanding ethnic identity grudge match between the AFN and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, which still holds two appointed positions on NAHO’s board.

CAP’s participation in NAHO appears to have been a big problem for the AFN, who voted in December 2009 to withdraw all support for the organization.

In that motion, AFN chiefs called CAP “an illegitimate organization,” citing a declaration to that effect that they had issued in 2007.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada also holds two positions on NAHO’s board.

NAHO has always been divided into three sections: the First Nations Centre, Inuit Tuttarvingat and the Métis Centre, each with its own director and staff.

In a press release Aug. 12, NAHO said their plan to publish a special Inuit issue of the Journal of Aboriginal Health this fall is an example of the “distinction-based” approach they already take.

But the AFN, ITK and MNC objected to a structure that puts those three NAHO centres under a single 12-person board with some sharing of administrative functions

Their letter touts an organizational chart for a new arrangement that would create three separate research organizations, but Ottawa doesn’t seem interested in funding such an arrangement.

Aglukkaq told CBC North that despite cutting 800 jobs at Health Canada, the federal government will continue to support frontline health services and aboriginal health research.

NAHO, founded about 12 years ago, has sponsored academic research on a range of aboriginal health issues and maintains an archive of such research on its website.

Letter Nov. 28, 2011 from ITK, AFN, MNC to Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq

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