Hunger strike over treatment by Indigenous Services Canada ends after promise of change

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Hunger strike over treatment by Indigenous Services Canada ends after promise of change

A woman from Garden Hill First Nation on a hunger strike over what she calls the poor treatment she and others in her community face when trying to book travel for medical appointments is postponing her protest — for now.

Vicki Monias, who has been camped out in Memorial Park in Winnipeg and started the hunger strike Wednesday, now she says she's putting the action on hold after meeting with an official from Indigenous Services Canada Friday who promised change.

"They say they're going to resolve this problem, they're going to work with us," Monias told CBC News Friday after the meeting.

Monias says she will meet again with Indigenous Services Canada in three weeks.

She says medical services personnel who book health related travel disregard patient needs and are disrespectful.

Monias says she and others in the community have had enough.

"If you call there, they hang up on you," she said. "I'm trying to stand up for the people, for our people, they shouldn't be treated like that.

"They're putting your health at risk."

Support from the community

Garden Hill First Nation is part of the Island lake Anishininew region which includes the remote communities of St. Theresa Point, Wasagamack and Red Sucker Lake, and the chiefs of all four First Nations are supporting Monias' protest.

Laurie Wood Ducharme from the Four Arrows Regional Health Authority (FARHA) also backs the action.

"In the past week, I was hearing stories about the people taking calls not being helpful, being rude and hanging up. They were not being compassionate," said Ducharme.

Ducharme says the community has been fighting to get their own hospital up here for 20 years.

"I understood where she is coming from and put my support behind her."

'A productive meeting,' says ISC spokesperson

In an email to CBC News, Indigenous Services Canada spokesperson Edith Pedneault said the agency acknowledged Monias' concerns during the meeting and have committed to taking "immediate action to review the issues and take immediate action to resolve them."

"It was a productive meeting," she said. "Indigenous Services Canada agrees that no-one should be subjected to rude or dismissive behaviour while seeking services.

"We look forward to working with Ms. Monias, FARHA and the leadership of all the Anishininew communities to make positive changes for individuals living in the Island Lake Region‎."

Monias says if things don't change after her next meeting with Indigenous Services Canada, she'll return to her protest.

"If we're not satisfied I'm going back on the hunger strike," she said.

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