B.C. First Nation moving ahead with off-reserve, Indigenous-led health-care centre

Click to play video: 'B.C. First Nation to build off-reserve health care facility'
B.C. First Nation to build off-reserve health care facility
WATCH: The Sts'ailes Nation is one step closer to the construction of its own health-care facility, located in the lower Fraser Valley. As Neetu Garcha reports, in an unconventional move, the facility will be built off-reserve. – Apr 20, 2022

A First Nation in British Columbia is moving forward with plans for an Indigenous-led primary health-care centre, which will be built off-reserve to serve both Indigenous and non-Indigenous patients.

The project is a part of a reconciliation agreement reached last month between the B.C. government and the Sts’ailes First Nation, which includes $2.5 million to help purchase land for the site.

The facility will be built in Harrison Mills, adjacent to Highway 7.

“We chose to build it there so that it will benefit our neighbouring communities,” Sts’ailes Chief Ralph Leon told Global News.

“We were thinking of everybody when we decided to build a primary health-care centre.”

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Health Minister Adrian Dix said the facility will represent a new step in the process of reconciliation, while ensuring access to culturally safe care for those who need it.

Click to play video: 'Concerns about shuttering of healthcare cultural facilitation team'
Concerns about shuttering of healthcare cultural facilitation team

“What we’re going to see is non-First Nations people going to First Nations-run clinics in the community. It changes the power structure and approach so that it’s not one group of people always as patients, and the other group always in charge,” he said.

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“It changes that dynamic and I think it’s very exciting.”

Funding for the facility is just one element of the wide-ranging reconciliation agreement. The province will also transfer 167 hectares of Crown land along the Chehalis River back to the Sts’ailes.

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Sts’ailes territory is located about 100 km east of Vancouver, in the Lower Fraser Valley, including the Chehalis River watershed and Harrison Lake.

The agreement also provides $4.35 million to support Sts’ailes self-governance economic initiatives and environmental stewardship.

“This reconciliation agreement with British Columbia is really going to solidify a lot of things for us, including our presence on our own traditional lands,” Sts’ailes Councillor Kelsey Charlie told Global News.

“This is setting a tone for our people in so many ways. It’s something that our regional chief would love to see, our national chief would love to see and all the chiefs of Canada would love to see,” Leon added.

“And one day, we’re going to get there.”

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