National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald: “We will pray for this initiative’s success.” Photo: Art Babych
Five national organizations-including aboriginal and health groups–have issued a joint policy statement affirming the sexual and reproductive health rights of indigenous women and youth. “Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, Realities and Access to Services for First Nations, Inuit and Metis People in Canada” appears in the June issue of the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada (SOGC).
“In Canada, aboriginal women experience a disproportionately high rate of adverse health outcomes, such as sexually transmitted infections, complications in pregnancy and delivery, teenage pregnancies and sexual violence,” said Dr. Don Wilson, co-chair of SOGC’s Aboriginal Health Initiative Committee. “To address this, we need to reduce inequities in the availability and accessibility of sexual and reproductive services. Part of this means delivering care that is culturally safe. “
Providing culturally safe care in this context involves adapting practices and programs to suit the particular needs of aboriginal women, including respect for their unique needs, interests, health beliefs and behaviours.
The statement’s other partners include the Assembly of First Nations, the Canadian Federation for Sexual Health, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada and the Native Youth Sexual Health Network. “This initiative involves the holistic partnership of a number of indigenous organizations and a number of critical cultural disciplines,” said the Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald, national indigenous bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada. “It is hopeful in that it addresses some of the fragmentation and disintegration that accompanies ventures like this from the non-indigenous perspective.”
The statement recommends that political/community leaders should:
- advocate for awareness of sexual and reproductive health rights;
- advise the Government of Canada to implement the ecommendations of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
- develop cultural competence among health-care providers;
- support the development of a federal-provincial-territorial Aboriginal birthing strategy;
- promote understanding of Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) for First Nations and Inuit among health-care providers;
- increase access to emergency and alternative contraceptives, counselling on sexual and mental health and midwifery; and
- encourage the return of traditional birthing to indigenous communities.
The statement precedes National Aboriginal Day on June 21. “We will pray for this initiative’s success and trust the Creator for the well-being of the people,” said Bishop MacDonald.