Complex health challenges require holistic solutions
Toronto has the largest and most diverse Indigenous population in Ontario – an estimated 70,000 people or one-third of Ontario’s Indigenous population.
Loss of land, culture, and family life through government-led policies like the residential school system and the ‘60s Scoop’ have had a traumatic impact on the community resulting in a loss of identity with numerous ramifications.
Today, ninety percent of Toronto’s urban Indigenous population live below Canada’s low income line — often living at the margins of society and are more likely than non-Indigenous to be homeless, unemployed and to have not completed high school.
This inequity contributes to chronic disease and complex health issues resulting in multiple health care needs and in many cases, premature death. Many of the diseases, such as Type II Diabetes, start at a younger age and are experienced as chronic illness for a long period of time with multiple complications. Combined with high rates of mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and sexual and emotional abuse, this population is arguably the most vulnerable and disenfranchised community in the GTA.
Young lives cut short
A 2014 Ansihanwbe Health Toronto study looked at Indigenous deaths of its clients and at other Toronto social agencies. For the 109 reported Indigenous deaths, the average age of death was 37 years compared to average age of death of 74 years in rest of Toronto.