Thank you, Ms. Khalid.
My name is Marilee Nowgesic. I am the chief executive officer for the Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association.
I am in the unceded Algonquin territory of the Anishinabe people. I am here in Ottawa. I am originally from Thunder Bay/Fort William First Nation, and I am an Eagle clan member of the Ojibway Nation.
I'd also like to recognize today is Indigenous Nurses Day, so I extend acknowledgement to all of the indigenous nurses across the country. We are the organization to represent your voice.
I would also like to give you a little bit of a backgrounder to CINA. CINA is the oldest indigenous organization in the country, celebrating this year 46 years. As well, we have at this point roughly 9,800 indigenous nurses across the country who have identified as being first nations, Inuit or Métis. We have concluded there are probably quite a lot more. Because of the unique identifier situation we face in Canada, many workers are apprehensive about identifying in the indigenous category for various reasons, one of which we will step into in June as we address the third round table on racism. However, today, I thank you for the opportunity to come and speak with you with regard to elder abuse in the indigenous population.
I would like to thank and recognize Mr. Virani for bringing forward the motion to the House to look at this very important issue in Canada.
Indigenous elder abuse in Canada is part of a recognized land issue. We need to, first of all, take a look at the definition issue of “elder”. Elders in Canada in the indigenous lens are those people who have been given insight and understanding, as well as communication skills, to pass on the collective wisdom of generations that have come before us. You have heard from many of our elders, first nations, Inuit or Métis, in your previous work within your constituencies. “Elder” is capitalized when used to indicate honour or a title, as opposed to “senior”, as identified in Health Canada's definition.
The global statistics are lacking and the abuse of elders is grossly under-reported worldwide. Several countries, including Canada, have carried out research to examine the issue over the past several decades. There is no way of knowing whether abuse and neglect is getting worse or better, especially in indigenous communities. Statistics on the abuse of our elders are scarce for the general Canadian population, and the information is less available for the indigenous elder population.
Having said that, the definition of “elder abuse” has also some contributing factors when looking at the categories of elder abuse: domestic elder abuse, institutional abuse or self-neglect. Because of these categories, we also look at types of elder abuse that are prevalent in our indigenous communities: physical, psychological and financial. The most egregious forms of this abuse was evident when we saw the settlements to our indigenous elders as part of the Indian residential school system allocations.
Defining “elder abuse” also looks at several other areas that we, in our indigenous nursing ways and knowledge, want to be able to identify. We want to look at abandonment; physical, psychological, financial and sexual abuse; neglect and spiritual abuse; and the contributing factors that lead to elder abuse, the demographics, the stress, the societal factors and those which also lead to our life expectancy. We know there are dependency rates and there is a lack of statistical sources that would allow us to really look at that view with regard to the indigenous population.
We would welcome the opportunity to work with you on the report of this study, and further, with the indigenous population.
Again, thank you for allowing me to come here with you today.