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Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Babies dying in Canada while Harper donates taxpayers’ money abroad
Stephen Harper might have expected to hear nothing but praise for this week’s pledge to contribute an additional $3.5 billion over five years toward an international maternal, newborn and child-health initiative.
But the prime minister’s generosity in spending taxpayers’ money abroad has polarized public opinion at home.
Some say Harper is investing public funds in polishing his personal legacy, others – like Niki Ashton, NDP critic for the Status of Women – wonder at whose expense such huge contributions are being made.
Ashton notes that, at the same time as the prime minister is writing such big cheques on the international scene, his government is eliminating a vital First Nations program: Strengthening Families – Maternal Child Health.
“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.“There are First Nations people in Manitoba who are vulnerable and poverty stricken, like people in the places where we send our development aid. 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 Strengthening Familiesprogram 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,” says NDP Aboriginal Health critic Carol Hughes (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing). “They have no excuse. There is no reason why these infants should be dying in Canada in 2014. We must do better, not worse. New Democrats are demanding that the government continue and increase funding for maternal health care programs for First Nations.”
The Anishinabek News is published by the Communications Unit of the Union of Ontario Indians