Three Sask. First Nations declare a ‘state of crisis’

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WATCH ABOVE: Three Saskatchewan First Nations are declaring a state of crisis due to ongoing struggles with mental health, addiction and suicide. Ryan Kessler reports – Mar 14, 2016

SASKATOON – Three First Nations in east-central Saskatchewan declared a state of crisis Monday, calling for a meeting with provincial and federal leaders as soon as possible. The chiefs of Keeseekoose First Nation, Cote First Nation and The Key First Nation made the announcement at the office for the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) in Saskatoon.

“We haven’t got time to grieve. We have funerals every week and it’s all pertained to the healthcare system,” said Ted Quewezance, an FSIN senator from the area.

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Over the last three years, addictions, mental health and suicide have plagued the three communities, Quewezance said.

The group has penned a letter to the provincial and federal governments, along with the premier, prime minister and other officials.

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The chiefs want government to ensure first nations receive care equal to the rest of Canada. They also requested consistent access to essential primary care, along with care that is culturally safe and patient-centred.

“Our elders, our young people, our leadership, our front-line staff are burning out,” Quewezance said.

FSIN vice-chief Kimberly Jonathan said the three first nations deserve better access to health services and investments based on the needs of the communities.

“The responsibility doesn’t just lie with the chiefs, with the council, with the community members. The responsibility lies with all of us to be treated equally,” Jonathan said.

In addition to a meeting with government, the group of leaders also wants a review of a Kamsack doctor and the town’s pharmacies. Access to methadone has become an issue, as patients have become addicted to the narcotic painkiller, Quewezance said.

The Canadian Medical Association passed five resolutions pertaining to indigenous people at its August 2015 general council meeting.

One of the resolutions included plans for a national round table “to eliminate jurisdictional barriers and establish best-care practices that acknowledge the unique circumstances of aboriginal communities.”

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