Resiliency and self-determination are strengths among existing challenges with poorer health outcomes, as indicated in the new report on Métis health and wellness in B.C.
The report, Taanishi Kiiya? Miiyayow Métis Saantii Pi Miyooayaan Didaan BC: Métis Public Health Surveillance Program—Baseline Report, 2021, is the result of years of research conducted through Métis Nation BC (MNBC) and the Office of the Provincial Health Officer. The title is in the Michif (Métis) language, and translates to “How are you? Improving Métis health and wellness in BC.”
“Indigenous-specific racism in the health system stems from a history of colonization and trauma,” said Adrian Dix, Health Minister. “This report demonstrates the resilience of the Métis People who are overcoming this, and how best the health system can partner with them to improve health outcomes for future generations. There is positive progress demonstrated already, through our efforts to address recommendations in Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond’s report In Plain Sight, as well as through ongoing efforts to hire Indigenous patient navigators in our health authorities, and expanding Métis participation in health decision-making and increase engagement of health authorities with Métis chartered communities. We are continuing our work to make our health-care system inclusive of all British Columbians.”
Métis People have been adversely impacted by ongoing colonial violence, including systemic racism, the residential school system and discriminatory child welfare policies, which have contributed to overall poorer health outcomes.
“This report is the result of a partnership based on trust, mutual respect, collaboration and reconciliation,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. “It provides much-needed information about the health and well-being of Métis People, presented in a way that honours Métis tradition, culture and ways of knowing. I look forward to continuing this partnership and further improving our data collection and reporting process with the goal of making meaningful positive change for the health of Métis People in B.C.”
The report identified that 76% of Métis youth rated their overall health as good or excellent compared to 81% of non-Métis youth. Métis youth were less likely than non-Métis youth to eat three meals a day and Métis youth more often reported going to bed hungry at least some of the time due to a lack of money at home to buy food. Métis youth were also more likely to report higher levels of physical activity than non-Métis youth.
For Métis adults and Elders, the report found that Métis People in B.C. bear a disproportionate burden of disease compared with B.C.’s non-Métis population, and at 12.2 per 100 population, diabetes prevalence was higher compared with non-Métis at 10.1 per 100 population. Other chronic conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, hypertension, ischaemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma were also prevalent at higher rates than in other residents.
Mental health is a critical area of concern for Métis youth and adults in B.C., and for Métis females and non-binary youth in particular. Substance use is also an issue of note, with these concerns contextualized in terms of experiences of systemic racism, social exclusion and other factors linked to colonialism and colonial trauma.
“For too long, the health and well-being of our Métis citizens and communities have gone unnoticed, and a lack of concrete data has hindered our Nation’s ability to better serve their needs,” said Paulette Flamond, MNBC Minister of Health. “The Métis Public Health Surveillance Program is a constructive first step in creating a baseline of the strengths and challenges of our Métis people, so our government can begin developing programs and services that address those needs. This vision aligns with our Nation and Cabinet’s Strategic Plan to build a healthy and vibrant Métis Nation British Columbia.”
Together, MNBC and the Office of the Provincial Health Officer, along with the Ministry of Health, have developed a plan to monitor and report on the health and wellness of Métis People in B.C. over the next decade. This initiative will include releasing interim reports every three years to assess progress on achieving the 10-year health and wellness targets outlined in the report.
While B.C. has made important progress, there is more work to do. In 2021, MNBC and the Province renewed a shared commitment to strengthen their relationship and advance reconciliation with Métis People in B.C. A new letter of intent proposed a new whole of government approach to Métis relations as a partnership between MNBC and British Columbia that respects Métis self-determination.
Now is a time to build on what partners have achieved working together to make the additional necessary changes needed to root out Indigenous-specific racism, stereotyping and discrimination in B.C.’s health-care system and ensure a culturally safe health-care system for Indigenous Peoples.
Two backgrounders follow.