Health Care for First Nations, Inuit & Metis

Indigenous peoples in Canada face unique health challenges and have poorer health outcomes than non-Indigenous persons. Well-documented health and socioeconomic inequities are the result of the long term impact of colonization. Although First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples are on average younger than the general population, there is a higher prevalence of injury, illness and chronic disease.

Indigenous people in Canada face many barriers to accessing appropriate health care in Canada. For First Nations living on-reserve and Inuit in northern communities, there is limited coverage for health services under the Federal Non-Insured Health Benefits Program. In addition to this, many Indigenous communities are located in rural, remote and northern areas of Canada that have fewer health professionals and resources to meet health needs. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report also identified the importance of health professionals understanding the impact of residential schools on the health of Indigenous peoples, and the need for the delivery of culturally safe care in all health care settings.


The Canadian Physiotherapy Association is committed to:

  • Enhancing access to physiotherapy for Indigenous peoples
  • Honouring the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission 
  • Work with National Aboriginal Organizations to ensure policy recommendations are culturally safe and consistent with the values of communities
  • Working with Health Canada’s First Nations and Inuit Health Branch to expand access to physiotherapy in recognition of Jordan’s Principle


How Physio Can Help

Physiotherapists are health care professionals who have the skills to collaborate with clients, other health care providers and funders to deliver services based on the unique, specific needs identified by Indigenous patients and communities. The physiotherapy profession’s focus on lifestyle modifications and exercise prescription is consistent with the promotion of health and wellness. Physiotherapy interventions maintain or improve function, mobility, independence, and quality of life. Early treatment by physiotherapists results in better health outcomes for patients and is a cost-effective, efficient use of health human resources.

Call to Action

In July 2016, Federal Health Minister, Dr. Jane Philpott, and Minister of Indigenous and Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Dr. Carolyn Bennett, announced a $382 million commitment to enhance access to care for First Nations children living with disabilities to access equitable care on-reserve including physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and audiology.

The Canadian Physiotherapy Association is committed to working with Health Canada’s First Nations Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB) to identify a standard for care for children with disabilities or complex needs. The program is looking to provide the equitable access to care for children on-reserve that they would receive if living in another area of a province. The creation of a standard will look at the most common services available to children living with disabilities and complex needs.

FNIHB is looking for physiotherapists to lead interprofessional teams to provide assessments and recommendations for models of care to serve on-reserve communities. Physiotherapists and Physiotherapist Assistants with an interest in or knowledge of working with children with disabilities are encouraged to contact Melissa Anderson.





The Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA) and the Physiotherapy Foundation of Canada (PFC) are also proud to honour the recommendations of the TRC with the establishment of the Indigenous Student Award for physiotherapy education