Dear Hon. Hugh Flemming,
We support Metepenagiag First Nation Chief Bill Ward’s call for Cathy Carnahan to be removed from the board of Horizon Health because of her responses to a Telegraph-Journal reporter about lacking addictions services at the Miramichi Regional Hospital following the police killing of Rodney Levi who was denied treatment at the hospital. These comments published in the Telegraph-Journal on July 11, 2020 were offensive and unacceptable.
Carnahan’s comments demonstrate that she is not fit to be a board member at Horizon Health. Carnahan’s understanding of mental health and addictions directly contradicts Horizon Health’s approach to treatment. Her position on Indigenous issues is not aligned with the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada that have been supported by all levels of government. As a result, we believe that Carnahan’s participation on Horizon’s Board of Directors is dangerous.
Carnahan’s statement that “If one is going to gamble foolishly with their health, they must take ownership. It isn’t fair – nor reasonable – to expect someone else to provide help and assistance in a self-induced crisis,” stands in contradiction to the principles of the Canada Health Act, which has the the objective, “to protect, promote and restore the physical and mental well-being of residents of Canada and to facilitate reasonable access to health services.”
Health services in Canada are provided to citizens without restriction — even for “foolish” behaviour. Broken bones are treated even if caused during extreme sports, diabetes is treated even when a patient has a poor diet, surgeries are provided even after lack of safety gear was used and so on. A Horizon Health Board member should not claim that it is “not reasonable” or “fair” to expect health care if a provider judges that the patient’s actions led to their crisis. It is important that Horizon Health Board members understand that health care is for all.
Furthermore, it appears that Carnahan is unaware that addictions are a health issue often associated with mental health. Likewise, Horizon Health provides care for people with addictions. In her own region, Miramichi, on the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq, the launch of a new Addiction and Mental Health Mobile Crisis Response Services was announced in January 2020. The program promises to ensure that anyone in need of urgent mental health services will be able to get the help they need, when they need it. In community consultations across the province, mental health was identified as an area of focus for Horizon. The board cannot have members who endorse restrictions to care for New Brunswickers who are struggling with mental health and addictions.
On higher rates of Indigenous suicide and addiction, Carnahan claims, “We can’t change the past and all the injustices that have occurred, but we need to stop looking back.” In the Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, it states: “ We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to acknowledge that the current state of Aboriginal health in Canada is a direct result of previous Canadian government policies, including residential schools, and to recognize and implement the health-care rights of Aboriginal people as identified in international law, constitutional law, and under the Treaties.” Carnahan is uninformed on the appropriate approach to Indigenous Health and so is not competent to serve as a board member of a provincial health authority.
Carnahan demonstrated a lack of awareness of addictions, mental health and Indigenous health. Her comments fuel stigma and racism. This cannot be overlooked. Her immediate dismissal is warranted. According to Regional Health Authorities Act 19(10), the Minister may dismiss any member of a board, whether appointed or elected, for cause. Again, we fully support Metepenagiag Chief Bill Ward’s call for Carnahan’s removal from the Horizon board and believe it is your duty as Minister of Health to dismiss Cathy Carnahan.
Valerya Edelman, MSW
Cc: Metepenagiag Chief Bill Ward; John McGarry, Chair of Horizon Health; Karen McGrath, President and CEO of Horizon Health; Geri Geldart, Vice President Clinical for Horizon Health Network; Dr. John Dornan, Chief of Staff for Horizon Health Network; Jean Daigle, Vice President Community for Horizon Health Network, responsible for Addiction and Mental Health and First Nations Liaison; Gisele Maillet, Executive Director Addictions and Mental Health Services; Natacha Benoit, Addictions and Mental Health Services; Krista Martin, Addiction and Mental Health Services, Anne Pellerin, Addiction and Mental Health Services; Stacy Taylor, Addiction and Mental Health Services.