Co-developing distinctions-based Indigenous health legislation

Together with Indigenous partners and the provinces and territories, we are co-developing new distinctions-based Indigenous health legislation to improve access to high-quality, culturally relevant health services.

Current status: Open

The Minister of Indigenous Services publically launched the engagement on January 28, 2021.

On this page


As indicated in the September 2020 Speech from the Throne, the Government of Canada is committed to walking a shared path of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and remains focused on implementing the commitments made in 2019.

The Government of Canada acknowledges the challenges faced by Indigenous peoples, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis in accessing culturally safe care. Canada is committed to working in partnership to advance the priorities Indigenous peoples put forward when it comes to health care. The mandate letter for the Minister of Indigenous Services commits to undertaking this work, in addition to "a distinctions-based mental health and wellness strategy, and work with partners to address anti-Indigenous racism in the healthcare system." It is part of the Government of Canada's commitment to address the social determinants of health and advance self-determination in alignment with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples.

The co-development of distinctions-based Indigenous health legislation is an opportunity to:

What co-development means

Co-development is a collaborative approach that acknowledges the distinct nature and lived experience of First Nations, Inuit and Métis. This approach is guided by:

Co-development will happen in 2 stages:

  1. broad engagement with First Nations, Inuit, Métis, provinces and territories, subject matter experts and other groups to determine the co-development pathway
  2. co-development of legislative options

Learn more about how legislation is developed:


The Government of Canada will engage:


We will work together with Indigenous partners to:

We will also work with the provinces and territories to make sure potential federal legislation:

About Indigenous health care in Canada

The organization of Canada's healthcare system is largely determined by the Canadian Constitution. Roles and responsibilities are divided between the federal, provincial and territorial governments. Generally, provinces and territories have primary jurisdiction over the administration and delivery of healthcare services. Indigenous communities also play an important role in the delivery of health services and programming.

The federal government exercises a role in health care primarily through the use of the federal spending power. For example, the Canada Health Act is Canada's legislation that imposes national standards on provincial healthcare insurance plans as a condition of accepting a federal contribution to the cost of those plans.

With respect to health care for Indigenous peoples, which include First Nations, Inuit and Métis, the federal, provincial and territorial levels of government share some degree of jurisdiction. Indigenous peoples are included in the per capita allocations of funding from the federal fiscal transfer and are entitled to access insured provincial and territorial health services as residents of a province or territory. Indigenous Services Canada funds or directly provides services for First Nations and Inuit that supplement those provided by provinces and territories, including primary health care, health promotion and supplementary health benefits. The federal role is guided by the 1979 Indian Health Policy's 3 pillars:

  1. special relationship with "Indians"
  2. inter-relationships with provincial and territorial health systems
  3. community development

The term "Indian" is only used when referring to or citing the 1979 Indian Health Policy.

Any federal legislation in the area of health care must be developed in consultation with provincial and territorial governments and with careful attention to the constitutional division of powers.

Learn more:

How to participate

There are 2 ways to participate:

  1. attend an engagement session. Please contact us to learn more
  2. send comments directly by email or mail to the address listed in contact us

Indigenous Services Canada has developed an engagement guide designed for individuals, Indigenous governments, organizations or communities to help guide their engagement sessions and personal reflections regarding the co-development of distinctions-based Indigenous health legislation. You may wish to consult the guide to inform your participation in an engagement session or your direct comments via correspondence. It is not meant to be a restrictive tool and can be used or disregarded at your discretion. Please share your thoughts however you prefer.

This engagement guide contains:

Contact us

Indigenous Services Canada
Distinctions-based Indigenous Health Legislation
10 Rue Wellington Suite 1455
Mail Stop 1921C
Gatineau QC K1A 0H4

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