Wenda Watteyne, Director of Healing and Wellness, and Dr. Storm J. Russell, Senior Policy and Research Analyst, Métis Nation of Ontario
Few Canadians realize that one third of all Aboriginal people in Canada are Métis, and that the Métis population is older compared to other Aboriginal groups. From our research, we know that many of our seniors are experiencing significantly higher rates of chronic disease and other complex conditions compared to non-Métis Ontarians. Métis people also fall under a different legislative and regulatory structure than do other Aboriginal groups, and do not have access to programming supports such as the Non-Insured Health Benefits program that is available to many Aboriginal peoples. Many also live in remote and rural areas, where access to services and supports can be limited. For Métis seniors living on limited incomes, things like transportation to see doctors and specialists, as well as having the means to fill expensive prescriptions, can also serve as barriers to care. Finally, access to culturally safe care can be a challenge for older Métis citizens.
It is for all these reasons and more that the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) provides programs and services at the community level. Situated in 18 Métis communities distributed across the province, MNO community centres serve as important cultural and service hubs that link our Métis citizens to each other, as well as to health services and supports in their local areas. The MNO community centres are especially important in providing our Métis seniors with the kinds of culturally grounded services and supports they need, along with help in accessing medical services. Some of our MNO centres also offer specialist services such as foot care clinics for seniors and other Métis people suffering from diabetes. MNO community centre workers also much in the way of outreach to Métis seniors in need of assistance, visiting their homes to help with things like meal preparation, house maintenance, and other tasks of daily living, while at the same time providing that important cultural connection and support. Through the MNO Community Support Services program we are also able to provide transportation services to help Métis seniors travel to and from their medical appointments.
For the many Métis seniors and other community members who are suffering from significantly higher rates of chronic diseases and conditions, MNO community centres provide a place where they meet with other Métis community members and receive much-needed support and care, and get help in linking to essential services and programs in the broader community. The centres also provide a haven for culturally safe community care.