BRANDON, Man. – A Brandon University (BU) researcher says she was surprised and honoured to find herself cited in the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC).
“I was absolutely stunned,” says Dr. Yvonne Boyer, the Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal Health and Wellness at BU.
While working on another project, she said she delved into the TRC report to bolster her argument.
“I looked at Recommendation 18 and I thought, ‘That looks really familiar,’” she said. “I quoted it, but I didn’t check. Then I woke up at three in the morning and said to myself, ‘Who wrote that?’ So I checked, and I thought, ‘Oh wow! It’s me!’”
Recommendation 18 calls on governments at all levels to recognize and improve Aboriginal health-care rights — the fundamental underpinning of Boyer’s work.
“It is a call to action,” she said, “to recognize that there are Aboriginal and Treaty rights to health and that along with the rights that all Canadians have under the Health Canada Act, there are additional rights, Constitutional rights, that First Nation, Métis and Inuit people possess, and these rights need to be recognized.”
Boyer says that the next step is putting these recommendations into practice.
“People can ask me about how to do this — I’ve got plenty of ideas,” she said. “It’s my life’s work.”
Tomorrow, Brandon University will also commit to improving the state of Indigenous education, as President Gervan Fearon joins other education leaders in the province to sign the Indigenous Education Blueprint at a ceremony in Winnipeg.
“Indigenous education has been a priority at BU for decades,” Fearon said. “This recognition of Dr. Boyer’s important work shows that BU can make a real contribution to the national discussion around reconciliation.”
Starting in January, Boyer says that she will embark on new research looking at Aboriginal and Treaty rights in health for people who are incarcerated.
“We have a large Aboriginal population in prison, and a large population in poor health,” she said. “And it’s not just physical health, we have a huge problem with mental health in prisons.”
She is also continuing her research on Aboriginal rights to health in Manitoba, and says that a forthcoming court decision on Métis status could open new avenues of research as well.