Mr. Robert Simpson (Churchill):
Mr. Speaker, I believe the words of the minister in the statement he has just made will do little if anything to quell the great fears and tremendous concern that our Indian people have in relation to what this government are planning to do to the health services they have hitherto been providing to our Indian people. This great concern and the fears of the Indian people were, of course, generated by a directive that was put out last March 6 and to which the minister has just now referred. This directive was sent out to the health zone people in the province of Manitoba, and also to the chiefs and councillors of all Indian bands.
At the time questions were asked in the house it was our understanding that the then minister would put out a clarifying directive. To the best of my knowledge from contacting the chiefs on some 26 Indian reservations in the constituency of Churchill, Mr. Speaker, to this day no clarifying directive was ever sent to them. The Minister of National Health and Welfare has said that a directive did go out. It went out, as I understand it, merely to department officials. We have told the Indian people, as we had been advised by the minister, that this new directive would be sent to them and would be part of the consultation with the government. We on this side of the house have always maintained that no planning of this nature should be done without adequate consultation with the Indian people.
The minister has stated that on several occasions there has been some consultation. He referred to the question raised in the statement by the minister of health of the province of Ontario. He forgets though, Mr. Speaker, that the minister of health of the province of Ontario made a categorical statement that the federal government is trying to unload its traditional responsibilities for health care of the Indians and Eskimos on to the provinces without discussion or consultation.
We say, Mr. Speaker, that consultation must be had, and that it must be prior consultation. We also say there should be continuing consultation among the ministers who are concerned. It was quite clear to us on this side of the house when we raised this question last March that the then minister of Indian affairs and northern development knew nothing of the plans of the Department of National Health and Welfare to curtail certain Indian health services. So when the government across the way talks about consultation,
Mr. Speaker, I suggest that they consult among themselves where this is necessary.
The minister also pointed out in regard to doctors' fees that the doctors were receiving about 75 per cent of their scheduled fees for the services they provide to the Indian people. From what we have been able to learn, Mr. Speaker, we understand that the doctors are receiving only approximately 50 per cent. I am wondering whether this is not just another indication of the feeling of this government that our Indian people are second class citizens.
As I said, Mr. Speaker, there must be consultation. The government has said in announcing these plans that they had been in the making for a long time. I wonder just how much time the government intends to spend consulting the Indian people. When you plan these things in a bureaucratic fashion for over a period of a year or two or even more you cannot expect just to meet briefly with the Indian people, ask them to assess the matter and then come up with a decision in quick order.
The minister also mentioned, Mr. Speaker, that consultation has gone on with the provinces, and I covered that point when I referred to the statement of Dr. Dymond. There may have been some talks, but from what we can find out from the provinces no one knows just who is going to pay for these services if they are shunted off as a responsibility of the provinces.
These are matters, Mr. Speaker, about which this house should know. If the provinces are going to be asked to handle these matters, and after consultation they agree to do so, then this house should know who is going to pay the cost. We should know whether the federal government is going to continue its financial responsibility. However, as I say, when dealing with matters that deviate from or abrogate treaties with our Indian people, there must be consultation. In regard to treaties Nos. 1 and 6 which deal with medical services, our Indians are certainly entitled to consultation because such services have always been accepted by them as a treaty right.
I should like to give a strictly personal opinion, Mr. Speaker, without in any way casting any reflection on language questions that are being raised in Canada at this particular time. I think we have here a pretty sad state of affairs, particularly when we are trying to get national unity. At a time when
October 2, 1968
one language group is making strong submissions to have its language not only preserved but expanded, with its protection written right into our constitution, this government is abrogating the rights of the Indian people without even consulting them. I think this is a question at which Canadians should take a good look.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I hope the minister will carry on a series of consultations not only with the provincial authorities but with the Indian people themselves. They should be given time to look these questions over. The government has already deprived the Indian people of many of the hunting rights they were given under treaty. I hope the government is not now arbitrarily planning to tell the Indian people that somebody else other than the federal government is going to have to look after their medical services.
Subtopic: STATEMENT RESPECTING INDIAN HEALTH SERVICES