Kanesatake Ambulance Service receives help from Quebec Minister of Indigenous Affairs

After an April 30 crash disabled the only ambulance operated by First Nations Paramedics (FNP), the Quebec Department of Indigenous Affairs has stepped in to ensure the company can continue to provide pre-hospital emergency care in Kanesatake.

According to Robert Bonspiel, FNP President and CEO, the support is more than welcome, but he believes it is only the first step in ensuring the community has access to equitable pre-hospital care.

“They basically fixed the problem with a bandage, but we’re still bleeding,” Bonspiel said.

He is particularly concerned that the FNP is on what is known as a factional or 7/14 schedule. This means paramedics can anticipate emergencies from a remote location and drive to the ambulance when a call comes in, adding minutes to their response time.

Meanwhile, Services Préhospitaliers Laurentides-Lanaudière (SPLL), a larger company covering the region where Kanesatake is located, operates services by the hour, meaning paramedics are already in the ambulance when a call comes in. So it’s often called that way when there’s an emergency in Kanesatake, even though FNP is closer.

“We believe it is not fair treatment. It’s a discriminatory approach and we’ve made that known now,” Bonspiel said.

In addition to providing a second vehicle — assistance worth about $35,000, according to the ministry — Bonspiel said he had been assured by Indigenous Affairs that the Department of Health would issue the necessary permit for the company to operate.

The used vehicle becomes the primary ambulance while the vehicle currently under repair becomes the secondary vehicle.

“Sometimes it’s just regular (maintenance),” Bonspiel said. “The ambulance has to go for a tire change, for an oil change. It has a broken windshield and must be out of order to be repaired.”

Whenever this happens, the secondary vehicle would be deployed. Bonspiel said FNP expects to add a brand new ambulance within two years.

It is the first time the company has received support from the province’s Ministry of Indigenous Affairs. Bonspiel said Ian Lafrenière, the minister responsible for indigenous affairs, had been in frequent contact with him recently.

“Minister Lafrenière wanted to ensure the continuity of ambulance services at Kanesatake,” said ministry spokesman Myrian Marotte. The ministry’s support will allow FNP to avoid business disruption, she said.

“As for other changes, such as E.g. a timetable instead of a faction plan, the (Department of Health) is in the process of analyzing the different requests for all regions of Quebec,” she added.

Bonspiel argues that the availability of emergency services is an important issue for indigenous communities.

“We hope this brings to the fore the issue that affects all First Nations communities across Quebec — not just Kanesatake and not just First Nations Paramedics,” Bonspiel said.

“We will try to build on that to educate the public about the injustices in prehospital care.”

[email protected]

Leave a Comment