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Canada Ottawa funds health changes aimed at giving First Nations more control

The federal government has taken another step in transferring control over Indigenous health programs to First Nations.

Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott announced $68 million over three years for Indigenous communities in Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan.

The money follows up on plans first announced in the 2017 budget to boost First Nations-led health services in sometimes remote communities.

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Philpott says the money will help boost First Nations health services closer to home.

She says this should help reduce the gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in areas such as diabetes and infectious disease.

Final funding amounts to each First Nations organization are still being worked out.

“The idea is to increase the control and the design of health systems in the hands of First Nations governments,” Philpott said Thursday.

“The health outcomes for First Nations are vastly different, in many cases, from non-Indigenous Canadians. If you look at the rates of diabetes, if you look at rates of infectious diseases .... the disparities are absolutely there.”

Grand Chief Garrison Settee, who represents dozens of northern Manitoba Indigenous communities, said the funding will help set up more services in communities, which will mean less travel for patients.

“We can bring these services to the north that are so, so needed,” he said.

The initiative is somewhat similar to the move in 2013 to transfer Indigenous health programs in British Columbia to a First Nations health authority, Philpott said.

“The evidence is there that the health outcomes have improved considerably,” Philpott said.

The funding announced Thursday will be split between the provinces, with Manitoba getting $42 million, Saskatchewan $13.6 million and Ontario $11.9 million.

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