Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Around the Arctic April 17, 2012 - 3:32 pm

Health Canada slashes half of ITK’s health budget

Cutbacks will have “major and direct negative impacts on Inuit"

ITK president Mary Simon said Health Canada cutbacks would have a “major and direct negative impacts on Inuit.” (FILE PHOTO)
ITK president Mary Simon said Health Canada cutbacks would have a “major and direct negative impacts on Inuit.” (FILE PHOTO)

National Inuit organization Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami has joined a chorus of organizations denouncing federal cuts to Health Canada programs.

But now it’s gotten personal, since the federal health department slashed 40 per cent from ITK’s own health budget.

Health Canada announced last week that it would cut $74.2 million from its department budget; that includes $1.5 million from ITK’s own health budget over the next two years.

“The cuts to Health Canada will have an impact on ITK’s ability to effectively represent Inuit,” said ITK president Mary Simon in an April 17 news release.

“These cutbacks to ITK’s health capacity will severely reduce the ability of Inuit to participate, even in a modest way, in the development of policies and programs aimed at combatting enormous health challenges experienced so graphically in Inuit regions, communities and families.”

The recent Health Canada cuts will also eliminate the National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO), which received $5 million a year from the department to do research and outreach programs, along with another $800,000 annual contribution that Health Canada’s Inuit branch provided to Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada to offer wellness programs.

The cutbacks will have “major and direct negative impacts on Inuit,” Simon said, given that Inuit health statistics are several times higher than average Canadian data.

“Our suicide rate is 11 times higher. Tuberculosis rates are 174 times higher. Infant mortality rates are three times the national average.  Inuit life expectancy is 15 years less than the average Canadian, and continues to widen,” she said. “These shameful statistics speak for themselves.”

Simon said ITK has long identified the critical need for better mental health program and services for Inuit communities

“Health Canada cuts of this magnitude, in addition to the closure of the NAHO, may just make a terrible situation worse,” she said.

Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said last week that her department withdrew funding for NAHO at the request of ITK and other member organizations.

But Simon said that ITK only asked that NAHO be restructured to reflect a distinct Inuit approach to its work, adding that its closure would create a serious void in Inuit health research.

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