A Nova Scotia man is working to make it easier for Mi'kmaq to understand and access healthcare programs in the province.
Aaron Prosper was recently hired as the Indigenous health consultant for the Nova Scotia Health Authority.
Prosper, who grew up on Eskasoni First Nation in Cape Breton and is a graduate of Dalhousie University's neuroscience program, said he's hopeful such a service will be in place in the "near future."
"Nothing [is] set in stone yet, but what I can say with confidence is we've actually been making some progress," Prosper told CBC's Information Morning Cape Breton, adding that there is currently no such service.
"For sure, language barriers [are] an issue — whether that's not having an interpreter or the accessibility of even public health information."
Prosper said one example of confusion between the Mi'kmaw and English languages was identified during the pandemic.
An Indigenous lens
He said the word "COVID" sounds quite similar to the Mi'kmaw word "kopit," which means "beaver."
"There was a misunderstanding in what they were hearing in the news of what COVID-19 actually was," said Prosper, now based in Dartmouth, N.S.
The Indigenous health consultant position was developed in partnership with Mi'kmaw communities, along with the Department of Health and Wellness and the Nova Scotia Health Authority.
As part of his role, Prosper said he will also be supporting the development or redevelopment of a variety of health-care programs through an Indigenous lens.
That means ensuring that any materials that are produced are culturally informed and culturally sensitive, he said.
Prosper's past work
A great deal of that work follows recommendations from Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
"There's a lot of health-related calls to action, or articles, within those two documents and so we'll be looking at how Nova Scotia ... [can] be in line with those documents," said Prosper.
As part of his role, Prosper will act as a liaison between the Nova Scotia Health Authority leadership and leaders in Mi'kmaw communities.
During his time at Dalhousie, Prosper was known for getting things done.
He joined others in lobbying the university to install a permanent Mi'kmaq Grand Council flag. It now flies beside the Canadian and Nova Scotian flags in the centre of campus.
He was also the university's first Mi'kmaw student union president.
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