Policy will ensure disputes don’t delay health care for Inuit children: leader

The leader a national Inuit group says Ottawa is working on a policy to ensure health care for Inuit children isn’t delayed while governments argue over who pays.

“Minister (Jane) Philpott is going to work with us over the summer to hopefully create a structure that allows for Inuit children to not be tied up in jurisdictional issues,” Natan Obed of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami said Wednesday.

Obed said the Indigenous services minister agreed this week at a meeting in Inuvik, N.W.T., to work towards an equivalent to Jordan’s Principle for Inuit children.

Jordan’s Principle is aimed at overcoming red tape that delays or prevents Indigenous children from getting the services they need. It ensures that the department first contacted pays for the service to a child and can later seek reimbursement.

It is named after Jordan River Anderson, a five-year-old boy from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba, who died in hospital in 2005 while the federal and provincial governments bickered over who would pay for his home care.

More than 33,000 requests for support and services have been approved under the principle since July 2016, but it doesn’t cover Inuit.

Obed said the on-reserve, off-reserve disputes that arise with First Nations are echoed in squabbles between the territories and provinces. Agreements between those jurisdictions cover basic care, but don’t deal with rare diseases or chronic illnesses.

“Specific care for rare diseases or certain issues in relation to ongoing illnesses that receive constant care, that’s when we get to some challenges,” said Obed. “Inuit children get caught up in jurisdictional issues around care and then they don’t receive the care they should receive.

“Minister Philpott has pledged to work with us to resolve those challenges.”

Obed said he didn’t know exactly how many children are affected, but he called it a recurring issue for parents in all Inuit regions of Canada.

“We have received many complaints from Inuit parents because their children aren’t receiving the care that they should.”

Philpott was not immediately available for comment.

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