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The Métis in Western Canada: O-Tee-Paym-Soo-Wuk

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Health and Wellness

The Métis, like other Aboriginal groups in Canada, have suffered from increased cases of illness and have experienced shorter life spans compared to other Canadians. This phenomenon is directly related to the higher levels of poverty experienced among the Métis people as compared to the larger Canadian population.

The reason for these discrepancies are found in the difficulties created by social-economic status, education levels, geography, cultural identity, the levels of social inclusion and integration, community structure, and lack of infrastructure for health and wellness.

The key factor in the problems faced by the Métis is that historically, neither the federal or provincial governments accepted responsibility for the cultural group. Even after the Canada Constitution Act of 1982 recognized the Métis as Aboriginal peoples, services to combat social and health problems among the population were not provided.

The status of the Métis was defined as Aboriginal under the Canada Constitution Act of 1982. Only after they were accorded status was it clear that the federal government held responsibility for Métis health and wellness.

The result was a series of studies and organizations that included the Métis Centre at the National Aboriginal Health Organization; the Organization for the Advancement of Aboriginal Peoples Health; and the Aboriginal Diabetes Initiative. These initiatives and organizations have worked to provide direction and focus for Aboriginal health and wellness needs.

The efforts have begun to improve all areas of Aboriginal health and wellness including the needs of the Métis. In the autumn of 2004, the federal government announced that it was going to provide $700 million; from this amount, $200 million was allocated for an Aboriginal Health Transition Fund, which would facilitate the adaptation of existing provincial and federal health service for the needs of Aboriginal peoples; another $100 million was to allow Aboriginal peoples to train for the health services and retain existing medical professionals; and the final $400 million was directed toward mental health programs to reduce youth suicides, provide maternity education, infant wellness, and diabetes clinics.

With the federal government taking clear responsibility for the health and wellness of the Métis people, there are no longer any disputes about who will provide services. With this advance, improved services are being developed and delivered to the Métis people across Canada.

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