As it stands, nothing stands at 1236 Albert St. in Regina. But Cowessess First Nation has big plans for the property.
The plan is to build a three-and-a-half-storey Urban Indigenous Health Centre at the location, a facility that is designed to improve not only the physical health of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, but also their mental health, according to a “vision paper” done for the project.
“Health care for Indigenous communities is a real challenge,” said Jessica Nixon, the Director of Economic Development for Cowessess. “There’s a lot of chronic illnesses that plague First Nations individuals. Oftentimes, there’s many of them living in at-risk situations, which further emphasize their health-care challenges.”
Nixon said one of the other big challenges pertaining to First Nations health care is accessibility, having services close to where the population is. So Cowessess chose to put its project in North Central Regina, where Cowessess’ Chief, Cadmus Delorme, hopes to take care of two problems at once.
“That population really does have some challenges,” Nixon said. “So to help overcome some of those social barriers we have to make sure we have healthy people.
“So Chief Delorme’s vision is, ‘Not only do we want to tackle an issue that’s more social, like health care, but there’s also an economic development opportunity here in building a building that offers those services in-house.’ ”
Although there is a plan for the building, there are some barriers involving the project.
“The real challenge with the health centre is that we don’t deliver health care as Cowessess First Nation,” Nixon said. “We have to get the provincial government and the Saskatchewan Health Region on board with this initiative so that they can deliver care in our building on reserve status land to First Nations individuals.
“However, First Nations health care is not the jurisdiction of the provincial government. First Nations health care is paid for federally but delivered provincially. It’s quite a unique situation where we have to make sure the federal government is involved, the provincial government, the health region, and us as a First Nation.
“Our interest is really in driving the initiative, getting the idea there and building the building to enable it. But ultimately, we won’t be the ones delivering the services in the building. As Cowessess, we’re not expert health practitioners.”
Amanda Redman, an Indigenous mother of four, sees the benefit of Cowessess getting its health centre building. She said she could see a lot of First Nations people going to their own health centre, because it would make it easier when it comes to their health care and in dealing with doctors who are of the same race or better understand their patients’ beliefs.
“There’s a lot of First Nations people that don’t trust some of the other doctors of different races, whether they’ve had bad experiences before or they weren’t being heard when they were telling their problems,” Redman said.
Redman said she has also had her problems with Regina-based doctors that she thinks a First Nations health care centre would solve.
“There’s only certain medi-clinics that I will go to if we can’t get in to see our family doctor because I don’t like how they talk to me or how they treat me, or the medication that they’re giving my kids,” Redman said.
“(The doctors) often say, ‘Tylenol, just give them Tylenol.’ And that’s in different areas of the city. That’s happened in the north, the south, the east and the west side.”
Jessica Nixon, the Director of Economic Development for Cowessess, also had a challenge for the provincial government, which Cowessess needs to get on board before the health centre gets the green light, drawing on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“The Truth and Reconciliation calls to action,” Nixon said. “They basically put the emphasis on every company to do their part to break down the barriers.
“So the question I would ask our provincial government is: ‘What are you doing as part of the truth and reconciliation commission to break down the barriers?’
“So everybody wants to be more inclusive of First Nations, everybody wants to address First Nations health-care issues because it’s costing our province a lot of dollars and the federal government (as well). So how can we better this?”