Indigenous governance and health in Canada: Oral ways of knowing and Indigenous rights in health care

Authors: Sarah Nelson*, Queen's University
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Indigenous Peoples
Keywords: Indigenous health, health geography, governance, rights
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 40
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Governance, self-determination, authority, jurisdiction, autonomy, sovereignty. All of these concepts have been repeatedly called for as necessary pathways to improving Indigenous peoples’ health in Canada. Recognition of these foundational determinants of Indigenous peoples’ health can be found in the voluminous literature linking colonialism (understood as the denial of Indigenous governance and sovereignty) to negative health outcomes (Loppie Reading & Wien, 2013; Browne, 2017; Mikraszewicz & Richmond, 2019; Ward et al., 2020), as well as in the creation of health governance bodies such as the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) in British Columbia. Canada is not alone in this. Scholars and community leaders across the United States, New Zealand, and Australia have for a long time been calling for, and designing and developing, ways of ensuring Indigenous governance over Indigenous communities in the interest of improving Indigenous health.

Indigenous governance and Indigenous rights are not the same thing; however, attending to Indigenous legal rights in the design and delivery of health care may assist in achieving equity and freedom from racism for Indigenous individuals who access health care services. This presentation brings together qualitative work in two places: on health care services in northern British Columbia and on oral ways of knowing in eastern Ontario, to consider the linkage of rights and health care, and examine the inseparability of Indigenous governance and Indigenous health.

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