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Indian People Refused Medical Care As A Right

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      JANUARY 15 1975      v05 n01 p05  
Cliff Starr

Prince Albert - "Indian people will be refused any special right to free medical care as a Treaty Right," said Cliff Starr, Executive Director of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians, in his address to the Prince Albert District Chiefs meeting held recently in Prince Albert.

Mr. Starr was referring to the policy paper recently tabled by the Deputy Minister of National Health and Welfare. This paper bluntly refuses Indian people any special right to free medical care as a Treaty Right. National Health and Welfare would not have the responsibility for health care for Indians and will turn this over to the provincial government according to the paper.

The Prince Albert District Chiefs called the special four day conference to discuss education problems, Churchill River Study, education budget, and claims were the topics given priority.

The Chiefs have been asking for an independent study on the Churchill River, but have not been able to receive any funds. They have presented proposals to Neil Byers, Provincial Minister in charge of the Churchill River Study, but were turned down.

Prince Albert District Chiefs withdrew from the study early last spring and have since been "accused of dragging their feet along with the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians," said Phil Morin, Prince Albert District Chiefs representative.

The Chiefs had asked for an independent study into the effects the flooding would have on the Treaty Rights.

"Saskatchewan region education budget is already two million short with three months to go and most of December accounts to pay for," Jim Freeman, Assistant Regional Superintendent of Education for Indian Affairs, told the delegates.

"Every year so far, we have been short of money," he said. "Ottawa usually came up with extra money, but now every time we tell them we are going to run out of money, they say it is too bad."

When a new fiscal year is started, education is faced with the carry-over of the two million dollars and that money has to be repaid before new education programs are started.

Increased costs in education, school, supplies have been increased by 50 per cent, and salary increases over the past year have been the cause of such a large carry-over and no cost of living increases included in the budget, it is virtually impossible to stay within the budget allocated.

When questioned about his actions on resolving the joint school agreements, Mr. Free man replied, "We have not done much with joint school agreements. We have met with school unit boards in some areas, but a lot depends on the length of the agreement, how much they utilize and the units are not about to return any money."

Ted Bowerman, Minister for the Department of Northern Saskatchewan told the Chiefs, "The provincial government is now in the position where we are prepared to sit down with the federal government and the Indian people to try and resolve the problems of the north."

Gordon MacMurchy, Education Minister for Saskatchewan told the Chiefs; "the most sensitive area in the province is education."

"On one hand there is some strengthening of the joint school approach, community with agreements signed between the three parties involved, the bands, the boards and the federal government," he said. "Then there is the establishment of schools on reserves, which is the most sensitive area I'm involved in."

When asked whether or not they supported Indian Control of Indian education, both ministers replied, they did not have any problems supporting Indian people in accepting their responsibility for education, but the problem is working out a system to provide that responsibility.