Statement from the Minister of Health on the preliminary findings from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to health
November 16, 2018 - Ottawa, ON - Government of Canada
Today, the Government of Canada was pleased to receive the preliminary findings and recommendations of Mr. Dainius Pūras, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
As Mr. Pūras noted in his initial findings today, Canada has in place strong federal, provincial and territorial policies and programs, grounded in a public health approach.
Canada's universal, publicly funded health care system is a source of pride for Canadians, who have access to medically necessary hospital and physician services based on need and not on ability to pay. The Canada Health Act articulates what we hold dear as Canadians, including shared values of fairness and equity.
Mr. Pūras also noted Canada's substantial investments to improve access to mental health services through better integration within the overall health system and our ongoing efforts to address the root causes of mental illness. Canada is also proud to have co-founded, with the United Kingdom and Australia, the Alliance of Champions for Mental Health and Wellbeing, to drive a renewed focus on mental health and increased political awareness, engagement and leadership both globally and domestically.
We acknowledge that, while Canadians are among the healthiest people in the world, the benefits of good health are not equally shared by all Canadians. This is one reason why Canada is a full supporter of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, without qualification.
The Government of Canada acknowledges the seriousness of health and mental health challenges associated with intergenerational trauma faced by First Nations, Inuit and Métis as a result of the impacts of colonization including residential schools and the Sixties Scoop. Health is also influenced by many factors including education, housing, poverty, the environment we live in, and access to safe drinking water, yet far too many Indigenous communities are missing the basic infrastructure that most Canadians take for granted. In keeping with the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, we are determined to close those gaps.
Jordan's Principle is a concrete example of how the Government of Canada is applying a human rights lens to meeting the needs of First Nations children. Jordan's Principle enables a direct response to meet the needs of First Nations children no matter where they live. Exemplifying this progress, yesterday, the Government of Canada announced a trilateral memorandum of understanding on Jordan's Principle—a first of its kind—with the Province of Alberta and 11 First Nations, allowing for the parties to work together to address and close gaps, ensuring that First Nations children in the province are receiving the supports they need.
Our public health approach recognizes that many factors beyond health care influence the health of Canadians. That's why we are tackling homelessness and giving more Canadians access to housing that is safe, adequate and affordable through Canada's National Housing Strategy. We have tabled legislation as part of Canada's Poverty Reduction Strategy, including ambitious targets to reduce poverty in Canada. We also invest in community-based maternal and child health programs to promote early learning and the health and well-being of vulnerable children, parents and families.
We are pleased that Mr. Pūras recognized the public health response of federal, provincial and territorial governments to the opioid crisis and other substance use issues. Our response includes making harm reduction a core pillar of Canada's drug strategy, increasing access to treatment through recent federal investments and regulatory reforms, and educating the public on the health risks of substances and the stigma faced by people who use drugs.
The Government of Canada remains highly committed to working with provincial and territorial governments, as well as non-governmental and Indigenous organizations, to advance policies and practices to improve the health and wellbeing of all Canadians. We thank Mr. Pūras for his visit, and look forward to reviewing his full report when it is released in June 2019.
The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, P.C., M.P.
Office of the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor
Minister of Health
Public Health Agency of Canada
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