Health Care Delivery System of Aboriginals in Canada


The modern-day world has been faced with many challenges in the delivery of quality health care. There have been global climatic changes due to environmental pollution as many pollutants are dispensed into the environment. This is due to the rise in industries as many countries rush to attain industrialization and acquire first-world status. The disease trends have changed recently as a result of this and many diseases have emerged while those that have been previously considered eradicated have re-emerged. In Canada, the Aboriginals are composed of the First Nations, the Inuit, and the Metis people. History has it that Aboriginals are of Asian origin arriving in Canada 30,000 years ago crossing a land bridge that connects Siberia and Alaska. Some of the larger groups occupied Canada while the rest opted to continue with their movement to the south. Before the arrival of the European explorers in Canada, Aboriginals inhabited most areas in the country. The Aboriginals lived a nomadic life and most of them were either fishermen, hunters, or practiced farming. According to Canadainfo (para. 2-6), the 1982 Constitution Act of Canada recognized the three groups as the native Aboriginal people of Canada. The first group is referred to as the First Nations. This group inhabited every part of Canada and they are among the 50 tribal groups which are known to be inhabitants of Canada by the constitution. The 50 tribal groups acquired a unique set of cultural activities and customs that is specific to each of the groups. Some groups that lived along the coastlines of Canada relied on hunting and fishing as their economic activity. The group that habited the prairies of Canada hunted as an economic activity. They traveled with buffalos and hunted them for tools of their trade, for materials which they used for keeping themselves warm, and also for their food. Some First Nation people settled in parts of central and east of Canada and they depended on hunting and growing vegetable crops. The Inuit people are believed to be descendants of the Thule culture that came from west of Alaska and they spread across the Arctic. They occupied the regions north of Canada. These regions are characterized by harsh climatic conditions. As a result, the Inuit hunted different types of animals that inhabit those harsh areas. These animals include whales, seals, polar bears among others. Presently, many people from the Inuit community live at Nunavut. Their economic activity remains as hunters to get their food and also for their clothing. When Europeans arrived in Canada they intermarried with the people of the First Nation and the Metis tribe was formed (Romanow 250). They inhabit the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia among others in the prairies of Canada. They are involved in the fur trade. The arrival of Europeans in Canada saw the making of various agreements with the Aboriginals on the exchange of various rights and privileges. Greater efforts are being put in trying to save the cultural features and languages of the Aboriginal people from being assimilated by modern-day trends. This essay dwells on the health care system of Aboriginals in Canada, illustrating their health status and issues that affect their health including the rise in TB prevalence in the Canadian Aboriginals.

Health status of the Aboriginals in Canada

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of diseases or infirmities.” For a person to be considered healthy the three parameters must meet the set threshold. Health is dependent on safe housing, decent income and quality living standards, good educational openings among others. In Canada, the aboriginals have faced much inequality in health care provision as compared to non-Aboriginals. According to the Centre for Social Justice (para. 1), the Aboriginals have been faced with financial problems, a poor housing system by living in houses that are dumpy and infested by various pests, lack of accessibility to proper and modern health care, and discrimination in the education sector and employment rendering most of them unemployed or lowly paid. These problems have exposed them to acquire certain diseases which have become prevalent among the Aboriginals as compared to the non-Aboriginals, for example, tuberculosis.

The arrival of Europeans to the north of America was marked by the emergence of many foreign diseases which greatly affected the Aboriginal people. This is because the people had neither a known cure to the foreign diseases nor were their immune systems adaptable to fight the diseases. The health care was left for the people who were of European origin, therefore, leaving the Aboriginals to rely on traditional medicine. The Aboriginals practiced traditional medicine which catered for their health needs. The supremacy of the health practices of the Europeans overshadowed those of the Aboriginals. Traditional medicine thus received much skepticism and as a result, it was banned from being practiced. As noted by the Centre for Social Justice (para. 6-10), the people of the First Nations tribe experienced a huge burden of diseases that were infectious in the year 1999. In the same year, the rate of tuberculosis among the First Nations people was 8-10 times as much as that observed in the whole population. In addition, the Aboriginal children’s rate of decay of their teeth was more by 2-3 times when compared with those from the non-Aboriginals. This data is specific to the Ontario province.

Romanow (218) observes that the health status, in general, has greatly improved as compared to 10 or 50 years ago due to some improvements in the Aboriginal’s living conditions and continuous investment in the prevention of diseases and public health. Despite this, many Aboriginal children continue have continued to suffer from an increased burden of poor health as compared to the non-Aboriginals. This has rendered the Aboriginals to have dismal performance compared to national averages in most of the indicators of health status like suicide rates and diabetes and also on conditions influencing health like clean water accessibility, safe housing, and poverty levels (Health Canada, p.20). Aboriginal people are at higher susceptibility to developing diseases as observed by various reports. For example, the National Population Health Survey reports that the prevalence of chronic medical conditions is higher at a statistically significant level among the Aboriginals in comparison with non-Aboriginals. Research and surveys of nearly all diseases have tended to indicate the same trends. For example, the incidence of diabetes mellitus of the non-insulin type indicates a 3 to 5 times more the non-Aboriginals. Also, studies conducted across groups indicate a higher rate of development of obesity and overweight in the Aboriginal people. For cancer, they score below the average rate but it is the third cause of death in the Aboriginals due to late presentation at the hospital when the ailments are at an advanced stage. The Aboriginal people are marginalized in Canada. This coupled with oppression have contributed to mental deviations causing mental health problems.

In the present times, concerned authorities have embarked on efforts to have an efficient health care system for the Aboriginals. Accessibility to health care is being enhanced to cater to peoples’ needs. For example, in 1997 the Noojimawinn Health Authority was formed to look into the health needs of the Aboriginal people. These are the people who live in the reserves and the urban centers of the province. It also interacts with the health professionals on better ways to improve health care delivery to the Aboriginals. To increase knowledge and skills among the professionals, Mcmaster University developed a course. This course dwells on the health issues affecting the Aboriginals of Canada. Furthermore, traditional healing practices have now been incorporated into the health care system (Romanow 220). This is due to the realization that the healing practices are holistic in that they do not focus on symptoms of the diseases but focus on the whole individual. This is in line with WHO’s definition of health.

Health issues of the Aboriginals in Canada

The Aboriginals in Canada face many serious health challenges bringing many deaths which could otherwise have been prevented. There are high prevalence rates of many chronic and contagious diseases for instance occurrence of 15 percent of HIV/AIDS cases which are new in the Aboriginal people (National Collaboration Centre for Aboriginal Health, para.3). Various studies have indicated a high level of occurrence of diseases among the Aboriginals as compared to the general population. Heart diseases occur at a 1.5 rate higher in the Aboriginals while diabetes of type 2 affects 3-5 times more people of the First Nation. The infection rate for tuberculosis is more worrying as it has been shown to affect 8 to 10 times higher in the Aboriginals.

According to National Collaboration Centre for Aboriginal Health (para. 4-6), the Aboriginal children have a bad performance as compared with others with the following statistics; the mortality rate for infants among the First Nations reserves is higher by 7 times compared to the general population while for the Inuit it was more than 3 times of the national rates, in the period between 2002 and 2006, the rate for tuberculosis was 90 times higher for the Inuit people compared with non-Aboriginal population. On the status of nature of housing offered, Aboriginal children below the age of 14 years habiting overcrowded homes is 40% which is greater than six times that of non-Aboriginal children. The rate of immunization is lower than 20% compared to the national rates for the First Nations children on reserve. A lot is desired to have a downward trend in the above statistics for the Aboriginal children. This will come in handy due to technological advancements, increase in knowledge levels, and availability of resources that ensures improved health care to all without discriminations of race or economic status.

The Inuits who occupy the far north consider themselves as having been forgotten and marginalized. They have considered the health care as shameful due to the following health problems; the long delays of more than 12 hours to get a flight to physicians who are in the south part for the patients who are seriously ill, the number of Inuit people who gets to have contact with a doctor annually is 40 (Canadainfo. Para.5). This is in comparison to other Canadians who score 70% for those in access to doctor services. The rate of people committing suicide for the Inuit surpasses the national averages by more than six times. Compared to the other Canadians it is much clear that the Aboriginals are facing a lot of health issues. However, it is worth noting the efforts being put in to solve these issues and achieve equality in health provision for all in Canada.

Health care system of the Aboriginals in Canada

The health care system for the Aboriginals in Canada is complex and at times contested. The health services are mostly provided by the federal together with the provincial or territorial governments. The Aboriginal organizations also may partner with either the federal or the provincial governments to provide health care to the Aboriginals (Centre for Social Justice, para. 6). The complexity arrives due to jurisdictional concerns of different governments involved and the different policies and practices that are established by the various organs offering care.

The majority of the health services are provided by the provincial governments despite the federal government being seen as having the primary obligation of health provision to the Aboriginals. Health Canada is the health body that mainly funds and delivers services to the people who live on the reserve. It does this through its five programs which are; hospital services, community health services, the National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program, environmental health program, and the capital construction. The sixth program is concerned with uninsured benefits, provision of medicines on prescription, and covering of peoples’ eye and dental care without consideration of where they come from. In areas that are remote and where services like physician care would not be available, the federal government provides these services (Centre for Social Justice, para. 5). To make sure that the tax transfers and cash can sustain and is always predictable and available to all Canadians the Canada Health Transfer comes in handy. The provinces are empowered and have legislative and constitutional mandates to avail health care to everybody. The services accessed by the Aboriginal people are offered by the provinces. Towards the far north of Canada, the territorial governments are liable to offer primary health care services to Aboriginal communities living there (Minore &Katt, 671). Due to limitations in the number of clinicians, availability of funds, and lack of enough facilities territorial governments have been involved in agreements with provincial governments to be able to offer health services. To meet the different health needs of the Aboriginal people, different provinces have come up with programs to assist them. An example is the Aboriginal Healing and Wellness Strategy which is managed jointly by the province and the Aboriginals (Minore &Katt, 670). To ensure competence in the provision of health care clear guidelines should be set indicating the role of each government or organization.

Tuberculosis among the Aboriginals of Canada

Tuberculosis (TB) has continued to be a major public health problem among the Aboriginal people in Canada. TB is caused by bacteria that are transmitted via the respiratory system when an infected person coughs. The main part of the body is attacked by the TB bacterium in the lungs thus causing a lot of coughing. As the disease progresses it also attacks the lymph nodes as the body’s defense system tries to fight and eliminate the bacteria. It is a product of overcrowded homes, poor overall health, and more so malnutrition that is widespread among the Aboriginals (Minore &Katt, 677).

The prevalence of TB among the Aboriginals of Canada is high with Manitoba recording a rate that is 51 times greater than the non-Aboriginals. When compared nationally, Aboriginals score higher at a rate of 28.2 while the non-Aboriginals rate was 0.8. The infection rate of TB among the Inuits of Canada is 185 times more than the average no-Aboriginals. To cut this trend there is a need by the Canadian government to ensure equal access to health care, poverty reduction, and improvement of education among the Aboriginals.


In conclusion, the Aboriginals consist of the First Nations, the Inuit, and the Metis people. The First Nations group lived all across Canada and they are members of the 50 tribal groups that are recognized in Canada while the Inuit people are descendants of the Thule culture that came from west of Alaska and they spread across the Arctic. The Aboriginals are faced with financial problems, a poor housing system, inaccessibility to proper and modern health care, and discriminations in the education sector and employment, these problems have put them at risk of diseases which have become prevalent among the Aboriginals than in the

non-Aboriginals, for example, tuberculosis. Tuberculosis (TB) has continued to be a major public health problem among the Aboriginal people in Canada. The data available has indicated a high prevalence of this disease among the Aboriginals as compared to non-Aboriginals. The health services are provided by the federal, provincial, or territorial governments together with the Aboriginal organizations. Also, there are organizations like Health Canada that are in commitments to seeing to it that the gap of the health status between the Inuit, the First Nation, and other non-Aboriginal Canadians is closed. This will be achieved through encouragement of healthy lifestyles, reduction, and prevention of these diseases, and provision of quality health care services. To lower the prevalence of diseases like TB among Aboriginals, there is a need by the Canadian government to ensure equal access to health care, poverty reduction, and improvement of education among the Aboriginals.

Works cited

Canadainfo. Aboriginals. 2010. Web.

Centre For Social Justice. Health Care. Aboriginal Issues. 2010. Web.

Health Canada. Certain Circumstances: Issues in Equality and Responsiveness in Access to Health Care in Ottawa. 2010. Web.

Minore, Bruce and Katt, Mae. Aboriginal Health Care in Northern Ontario: Impacts of Self Destruction and Culture. Institute for Research on Public Policy Choices Volume 13. Issue 6 (2007): pp 667-711.

National Collaboration Centre For Aboriginal Health. Leaving No Child Behind-National Spotlight on Health Gap For Aboriginal Children in Canada. 2010. Web.

Romanow, Roy. Building on Values: The Future of Health Care in Canada: Final Report. Ottawa: Health Canada, 2002.

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