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This article was published 29/11/2016 (1049 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Manitoba Metis Federation president David Chartrand is incensed that the Pallister government is eliminating funding for workers who help deliver health services to Métis communities.
Chartrand stormed out of a meeting with Kelvin Goertzen at the Legislative Building on Tuesday after he said he was told by the health minister that $650,000 used by the federation to employ five health staffers would be cut.
He called the province's decision an "insult," especially since the health of Métis people is among the worst in the province.
"We have the highest chronic illnesses. We have the highest (number of) amputations. We have the earliest deaths," Chartrand said.
The health workers, employed by the MMF, advised Manitoba Health and regional health authorities on how best to target services to Métis communities. Chartrand said one staffer was employed on an initiative to end homelessness in Brandon.
Goertzen disputed the assertion that the Progressive Conservatives cut anything. He said the previous government funded a pilot project that was extended for a couple of years. It ended on March 31 and wasn't renewed by the NDP, he said.
"It was a pilot project that ended. We did not cut the funding. It ended before we came into government," Goertzen said.
A government spokeswoman later said MMF-employed staffers were providing education on the unique needs of the Métis population — not direct services to people. The last service purchase agreement between the federation and the province had an end date of March 31, 2016, she said.
Chartrand said he felt blindsided by the decision not to renew the program. He said his organization is on the hook for six months' worth of salaries as a result of the decision.
He said his health staffers continued to meet monthly with senior provincial officials and regularly with regional health authorities after the new government was elected. At no time was there a hint that funding for the staffers would be discontinued, he added.
After receiving the bad news, Chartrand said he cut the meeting short.
"I walked out… I said, ‘You are telling me and you’re telling the Métis people in this province that we don’t matter.'"
Plans by the MMF to train Métis health care aides to provide services in Métis communities are also now being scrapped, Chartrand said. He said his organization has already spent close to $500,000 on the project.
"It would lessen the load on hospitals, lessen the load on services, and save money and at the same time provide some good health care for our people," he said of the planned initiative.
Chartrand said he will be writing to federal Health Minister Jane Philpott to insist that all federal health funding intended for Métis people in Manitoba be directed to the MMF in the future — not the province.
The Métis leader said he would also raise concerns about Metis health funding with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when he meets with him late next week.
Goertzen said the province is facing health funding pressures that are exacerbated by the fact that the federal Liberals plan to reduce increases to the provinces to three per cent annually from six per cent in the coming year.
He said while the Progressive Conservatives have not reinstated funding for the MMF staff, it does not mean that they are not open to working with indigenous leaders in trying to improve health services.
NDP health critic Matt Wiebe said whether the funding to the MMF was for a pilot project or not, it is still incumbent on the government to ensure it is meeting the health needs of Metis and other indigenous people.
"The health minister needs to understand that," he said.
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.
Updated on Tuesday, November 29, 2016 at 6:36 PM CST: Updates with minister comments
8:08 PM: edited for style