‘Jeannie’s Way’ awareness walk raises awareness of treaty right to health care for off-reserve members, regardless of where they reside
Tim Brody - Editor
Sioux Lookout resident Howard Meshake, accompanied by his wife Jeannie Carpenter, completed an awareness walk to Dryden last week to raise awareness on the Treaty Right to health care for off-reserve members, regardless of where they reside.
The awareness walk, “Jeannie’s Way”, began on Oct. 10 at the Travel Information Center in Sioux Lookout. Conducting the walk in stages, Howard and Jeannie arrived in Dryden on Oct. 12.
“I begin this walk to bring attention to the ongoing challenges that my wife Jeannie and I have faced as a result of the broken health care system. I walk for Jeannie and for the many others who face similar challenges due to the lack of health care services,” Meshake shared.
“My wife had a stroke in 2018 leaving her paralyzed and needing 24-hour support, so it has now been 5 years of trying to navigate a broken health care system and things are only getting worse.
“We continue to be ignored and abandoned by the health care system, but I am going to walk straight to the Home and Community Care office in Dryden and knock on their door and tell them we refuse to be ignored.
“We call the walk “Jeannie’s Way” to reflect the journey that we have been through in navigating this system and advocating for her care on a daily basis. “Jeannie’s Way” represents a hope for a future system that is patient and family centred,” Meshake shared.
“My wife is a member of Lac Seul First Nation. Lac Seul is signatory to Treaty #3, as such, both Canada and Ontario have a sacred obligation to make sure Jeannie receives the care she needs and deserves,” Howard said.
Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority (SLFNHA) has announced its “un-wavered support” to Howard and Jeannie in their awareness walk.
SLFNHA is an advocate for Jeannie’s care and continues to provide support when possible. Sonia Isaac-Mann, SLFNHA CEO and President, shared that she is determined to assist in finding solutions to provide easier access to care for community members on and off reserve.
“It’s our goal to see a system designed around people having the ability to look after their loved ones at home. People should not be living in hospitals or long-term care facilities simply because there is a lack of support services. We call on both levels of government to work with us to make sure our clients have a full continuum of care with a coordinated system of services so they can live with dignity and live with their loved ones,” Isaac-Mann shared.
“We have been completely abandoned by the Ontario Home and Community Care system. Jeannie has not received any home care services since October 2022 and only had one hour of nursing care in total since June 2023. I will do everything in my power to prevent Jeannie from having to live in a hospital just because the home and community care system is broken. The reason for this walk is not only about how the system is failing my wife, but also to highlight that this occurs for so many others here in the North. It’s time for the Provincial Government to recognize the lack of access to health care in Northern Ontario,” noted Howard, who is the primary caregiver for his wife.
“There is something seriously wrong with the system when people like Jeannie go months without nursing car, Howard said, adding, “The Ford government needs to recognize these failures and make immediate investments to support front-line workers and to increase services in the North. The government has recently announced that they will be amalgamating the 14 home and community care branches in Ontario and l am fearful that this will only make things worse. We see a government that continues to centralize services and run a system out of Toronto, but this leaves the northern and remote communities behind. Ontario has a responsibility to provide equitable access to services to all citizens in Ontario regardless of where they reside and whether they are First Nation or not.”
SLFNHA shared on Facebook on Oct. 16 that Howard and Jeannie arrived at the North West Community Care Access Centre in Dryden last Thursday to find the office closed and no one there.
“I feel like it was a waste of time, especially arriving at the Home and Community Care office and finding out after reading the signs that no one works there. No wonder why our people struggle the way they do, there is no avenue in place for people to access care,” Howard is quoted as stating in the Facebook post.
“I’m at the end of trying to rely on a system that has let me down over and over. Our son was murdered in 2019 and my husband and I have not been able to even grieve that horrible loss. Every single day is a challenge to figure out my care while also trying to make ends meet. I want to thank all the dedicated and compassionate front-line staff who have helped me while they try their best to work in a completely dysfunctional system,” Jeannie shared.
“We have a Treaty Right to Health and that right is portable, meaning it applies wherever we reside. Ontario has an obligation to provide full and adequate health services to all off-reserve members. However, we continue to see people like Jeannie who are abandoned by the health system. We support Howard and Jeannie as they raise this issue for all those who are relentlessly fighting to get access to basic services,” stated Samuel McKay, Co-Chair of the SLFNHA Board of Directors and band member and resident of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug.
“This is an issue that affects a large population of off-reserve members who come from the 33 communities served by SLFNHA. SLFNHA supports Howard and Jeannie’s goal of creating awareness around barriers to health support in Northern Ontario and start creating concrete solutions for off-reserve members that need access to services to keep them home,” SLFNHA concluded.