Launching of a Blueprint to address the health and social services problems


    MONTREAL, Nov. 21 /CNW Telbec/ - Faced with serious health problems as
well as living conditions that are vastly inferior to that of the Quebec
population in general, the Quebec First Nations decided to take the bull by
the horns and to attack in unison the numerous challenges to be met in terms
of health and social conditions in the communities. "Closing the Gaps...
Accelerating Change" is the solution proposed by the ambitious Blueprint that
is being launched today by the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and
Labrador (AFNQL) in collaboration with the First Nations of Quebec and
Labrador Health and Social Services Commission (FNQLHSSC).
    "The future of our people depends upon our youth, who compose about 50%
of our population. We have the responsibility to do all that we can, effective
immediately, to close the gaps that separate us from Canadians and Quebecers.
The challenges are significant." declared Ghislain Picard, Chief of the AFNQL.
Mr. Picard invited governments to change their way of doing things in order to
respond more effectively to the expectations of the communities and to abandon
outdated policies, which are often an important factor in the ongoing
deterioration of the health and quality of life of First Nations. "We do not
have the right to fail nor deceive future generations who, in many cases, are
progressively losing their health in addition to their patience and their
hope. We have an obligation to the future. This challenge belongs to us." he
    The gravity of the statistics, confirmed during the First Nations
Regional Longitudinal Health Survey (2002), Quebec region, calls for all of
society to take quick and concrete actions that are supported by the will of
First Nations to continue to fully exist. The answer is the Blueprint
presented by the FNQLHSSC, which proposes solutions that are adapted to the
real problems that the First Nations are experiencing. It is a historical plan
that is the result of an unprecedented concerted effort between the
communities, experts from various fields and many First Nations organisations.
    "This Blueprint establishes the milestones on the road to be followed and
identifies the necessary focus areas to ensure that 2007-2017 is a decade of
profound change to the benefit of the health and well-being of the First
Nations of Quebec. It is ambitious because it aims for complete equality in
terms of health, through significant and innovative structural changes, while
betting on First Nations capacity to take control over their future. It is
also realistic because it does not underestimate the difficulty of the road
that lies ahead and it is supported by the obvious statement that a population
that is healthy and in charge is one that is fulfilled, and consequently
participates in a positive manner to the economic and social dynamic of the
country." explained Guylaine Gill, Executive Director of the FNQLHSSC.

    Committee of Experts

    The AFNQL and the FNQLHSSC also took advantage of the launching of the
Blueprint in order to announce the establishment of a Committee of Experts.
The Committee will be under the presidency of Dr. Stanley Vollant and composed
of First Nations representatives, health and social services representatives,
academicians as well as members of civil society. This Committee will have the
mandate to produce a periodical report on the status of health installations,
the quality of life of First Nations as well as progress in the implementation
of the Blueprint.

    About the FNQLHSSC

    The role of the FNQLHSSC is to assist the communities and organisations
of the First Nations and Inuit of Quebec and Labrador in the defence,
maintenance and use of their inherent rights in terms of health and social
services, in order to assist them in the achievement and development of these

    The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador is the regional
organisation that represents the Chiefs of the First Nations of Quebec and


    Worrisome observations

    Compared to the rest of the Canadian general population, a First Nations
individual from Quebec and Labrador:

    - Has a life expectancy that is reduced by 6 to 7 years
    - Is four times more exposed to inaccessible and inadequate health care
      and social services as well as a general lack of these services
    - Is two to three times more likely to be affected by obesity or being
    - Is two to three times more at risk of being affected by diabetes and
      eight to ten times more likely to be affected by tuberculosis
    - From early childhood, children are at risk of experiencing poverty,
      abuse and placement at a rate that is three to five times higher
    - Is five times more exposed to suicide

    Complementary observations

    - 52% of the population is unemployed
    - Approximately 60% of adults have an annual revenue that is under
      $20 000
    - One out of four homes does not have access to pollutant-free running
    - 49% of adults have not finished high school
    - 35% more smokers among First Nations than among the general population

For further information:

For further information: Chantal Cleary, Communications Agent, First
Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission, (418)
842-1540; Alain Garon, Communications officer, Assembly of First Nations of
Quebec and Labrador, (418) 842-5020, (418) 956-5720

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