Health committee votes down Indigenous health study, cites new ministry

By . Published on Dec 8, 2017 10:08am

The House of Commons health committee has voted down a motion to study Indigenous Canadians’ health and gaps in their health care services, and passed on choosing its next big study topic Thursday – leaving its upcoming agenda wide open.

Liberal MPs said that because the government is creating a new ministry of Indigenous services, that moves Indigenous health services out of the committee’s purview and makes it something for the Indigenous and Northern Affairs committee to study.

The Liberal-dominated committee shot down the NDP’s motion to study the “status of health and health care within Indigenous communities in Canada” and gaps in service delivery Thursday.

NDP health critic Don Davies urged committee members to take up the issue, citing stark health statistics for Indigenous Canadians, who have an average life span five to seven years below the Canadian average and sky-high rates of tuberculosis.

“These committees … we’re masters of our own affairs,” he said, arguing they could still study the matter.

“Health Canada is still responsible for the delivery of health care of Indigenous people. If it’s not Health Canada, where has it gone?”

Liberal MP Doug Eyolfson said he agrees with the need for a committee to study the issue, but insisted it shouldn’t be the health committee.

“What exists now, which did not exist when we first brought this up in February, is there’s a new ministry to deal with all of these services,” he said.

MPs on the committee have been debating what they should study next, now that their study on pharmacare has come to a close.

On Tuesday, the committee debated whether to get the auditor general to study wait times in Canada’s provinces – an idea that appears to have died quietly.

After the AG told the committee that would be out of his jurisdiction, Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu suggested the committee could ask him to “try to get the provinces to all audit health outcomes like wait times, doctor shortages … in the health system, then our auditor general would do the overall summary for the nation.”

At that meeting, Liberal MP John Oliver pressed committee chair Bill Casey over why the committee would want to study something largely out of federal jurisdiction.

“You’re going to shine the lens on your own province and say there’s a problem with how you’re delivering services … is that what you want to do?”

Gladu proposed Thursday that the committee should study home and community care next, but the committee adjourned before anything was decided.

The health committee is expected to table soon a report on its pharmacare study in the House of Commons.

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