NDP condemns cutting of maternal health program for first nations

As Stephen Harper proclaims that Canada is a world leader on the issue of maternal and newborn health, the federal government is eliminating a vital First Nations program: Strengthening Families – Maternal Child Health (SF – MCH).

“This is a program that is proven to work. It was created in partnership with, and fostered by, Indigenous women and caregivers, and is saving the lives of women and their babies,” said NDP critic for the Status of Women Niki Ashton (Churchill). “There are First Nations people in Manitoba who are vulnerable and poverty stricken, like people in the places where we send our development aide. This is blatant and devastating hypocrisy on the part of Stephen Harper.”

In Manitoba, infant mortality rates for Indigenous babies are twice as high as for non-Indigenous babies. The SF-MCH program has been administered and run by Indigenous peoples, and has been hailed by the Health Council of Canada as a best practice. Despite its success, the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch announced they plan to end the program in 2015.

“The government has been consistently pulling away from its healthcare responsibilities to First Nations. They have no excuse. There is no reason why these infants should be dying in Canada in 2014. We must do better, not worse,” said NDP Aboriginal Health critic Carol Hughes (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing). “New Democrats are demanding that the government continue and increase funding for maternal health care programs for First Nations.”