BRANDON, MB – An internationally-recognized voice in Indigenous health and the law at Brandon University (BU) is hailing an Ontario court decision on constitutionally protected rights to traditional medicine as “precedent-setting”.
Dr. Yvonne Boyer, BU’s Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal Health and Wellness, was commenting on last week’s judgment rejecting an application from a Hamilton hospital that would have seen the Children’s Aid Society intervene in the case of the Haudenosaunee girl whose family had refused chemotherapy at the hospital in order to pursue traditional healing.
“This is important in that it sets a precedent for Canadian courts in recognizing the rights of First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples to make health care choices for themselves, including the balance between traditional and Western medicine, as opposed to having the decisions imposed,” says Dr. Boyer, who recently published Moving Aboriginal Health Forward: Discarding Canada’s Legal Barriers, a comprehensive review of health statistical data, historical practices, and legal principles that have developed in Canadian law including constitutionally protected rights to health as they apply to Aboriginal peoples. “This ruling has direct implications for Aboriginal peoples as well as for the general population so this should be of interest to all Canadians,”
Dr. Boyer, a member of the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan, former nurse, and practicing lawyer, says, “There is no reason to suggest that traditional medicines may not work. Many western medicines are based on a complex pharmacopeia developed by medicine people that successfully prevented disease, maintained health and treated disease before European settlement.”
Although she believes Honourable Justice Gethin B. Edward of the Ontario Court of Justice has correctly ruled, Dr. Boyer expects that the court ruling may be appealed as is often done in precedent, high profile cases.
In her position as Canada Research Chair for Aboriginal Health and Wellness, Dr. Boyer has been recognized by the federal government for her research excellence to improve depth of knowledge and quality of life with $500,000 in funding to advance Aboriginal Peoples’ rights to health in Canada.
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