Association of Nations takes control of its environmental health and services

By Marc Lalonde

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A group of Anishinaabe First Nations in Ontario will now be the true stewards of their own land after they officially took control of their own environmental services, drinking-water delivery and food safety, among other areas, the agency now in charge of those services announced last week.

The transfer of responsibility for food safety, safe drinking water, healthy housing, public facility inspections, waste and wastewater management, communicable disease control, and emergency preparedness and response were officially ceded to the Fort Frances Tribal Area Health Services Agency earlier this month

The transfer of EPHS puts decision-making power in the hands of Indigenous governments and organizations, who can then make their own choices about how to deliver programs and services in their communities. Fort Frances Tribal Area Health Services has assumed responsibility for food safety, safe drinking water, healthy housing, public facility inspections, waste and wastewater management, communicable disease control, and emergency preparedness.

Fort Frances Tribal Area Health Services CEO Kayla Caul-Chartier said the communities have long seen the importance of the health of the land and how it relates to the health of the people who live on it.

“Environmental health plays an important role in all aspects of well-being. We have long recognized the links between the health of the environment and the health of our people, which is rooted heavily in Anishinaabe traditions and cultural practice, and the responsibilities and relationship to the land,” she said. “With the guidance and partnership of our Anishinaabe Nations and Indigenous Services Canada, we are committed to an Indigenous-led Environmental Public Health program in Southern Treaty #3 that is responsive to the unique needs of each community and contributes to our vision of lifelong Mino ayawin.”

The agency will be in charge of delivering services to Mishkosiminziibiing First Nation, Couchiching First Nation, Chima’aganing First Nation, Mitaanjigamiing First Nation, Zhingwaako Zaaga’ Igan First Nation, Naicatchewenin First Nation Ojibways of Onigaming First Nation Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation, Manidoo Baa Witi Gong First Nation and to the Anishinaabeg of Naongashiing.

Federal Indigenous Services minister Patty Hajdu said the transfer of responsibility to the agency will allow for better services for those in the 10 communities involved.

“This transfer of environmental public health services provides flexibility to Fort Frances Tribal Area Health Services to institute program priorities based on their seven core values for Mino ayawin (good health) in the ten First Nations communities they support,”  she said. “Indigenous-led design, delivery and control of services is critical in creating better outcomes for First Nations communities, and this transfer of services is a leading example that others can now follow.”

 Marc Lalonde  is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the  IORI:WASE. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

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