Call to Action – Alberta Minister of Health Holds Indigenous Information Gathering Session on Siksika Nation

On Tuesday April 30, 2024, Minister LaGrange visited Siksika Nation to hear firsthand the experiences and perspectives of First Nation people with Alberta’s health care system.  Minister LaGrange addressed those in attendance that her Ministry of Health is taking steps to ensure the diverse perspectives of Indigenous Peoples and all Albertans are represented while working to address the unique challenges of each region with a goal to improving the delivery of health care.

Former Chief, Vincent Yellow Old Woman mentioned that while some say economic development is more important, our health is most important. He emphasized that the Minister plays a very important role to help improve the system for everyone, because some day, whether rich or poor, we will all get sick. “The key word is prevention!” Chief Yellow Old Woman reminded us. “Don’t get proud.  Remain humble, you will get further in life.”

Siksika Health Board Chairperson, Marsha Wolf Collar highlighted the jurisdictional patchwork of provincial and federal systems that the Blackfoot and other First Nations are forced to muddle through when accessing health services; this is an impediment to good health care and good health. The health gap between First Nations and non-First Nations populations is significant, and represented in the life expectancy gap of nearly 20 years for Indigenous to non-Indigenous people. Until the barriers that limit access to quality, culturally safe health care is removed, existing health disparities will widen for the growing First Nations populations.

The Minister of Health, Adriana LaGrange expressed her belief that issues with the health care delivery system can change for the better. She acknowledged change agents such as Siksika Health Services and its CEO, Dr. Tyler White, who have been championing the modernization of primary care, and mentioned that the Government is in the process of implementing the Modernizing Alberta’s Primary Care System (MAPS) plan. In Minister LaGrange’s words, Alberta Health wants to hear “What is working well, and what is not working well.”

Siksika Nation Councillor Samuel Crowfoot addressed racism in the health system.  He said that Siksika Nation looks forward to meaningful change and equitable health outcomes for Blackfoot people and all First Nations.  He offered that the Alberta Health Services (AHS) complaint process is a waste of time, and that the AHS Advisory Councils need to see change. “We need our (Blackfoot) hospital back,” he said. “The Siksika Nation is a strong Nation, and we got here by working to address change for our people. This is our reality.” Councillor Crowfoot spoke to the treacherous and traumatizing situations that Blackfoot, and Indigenous people face when accessing healthcare in Alberta. “And so real meaningful change is required, and through continued engagement with the Minister and her department officials, together we can make a difference.”

Alberta Health continues to seek Albertan’s input for the refocusing of their efforts. For those who were unable to attend the April 30 information gathering session in person, feedback is welcomed by visiting the Alberta Health Refocusing Website, and clicking here to complete the form: (a phone-in option is also available: 403-310-0000.