Canada's NDP


July 9th, 2024

MP Niki Ashton calls on Minister Hajdu to tackle the nursing crisis

Dear Minister Hajdu,

I am writing to you today as the MP for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, and NDP deputy critic for Indigenous Services, to express my deep concern regarding nursing shortages in First Nations communities across Northern Manitoba.

Time and time again, I have raised that First Nations in our region have been facing unacceptable shortages of nurses in their nursing stations. While we were hoping for improvements post-pandemic, today's reality is grim. I am deeply concerned that your department's recent figures indicate that the vacancy rate for nurses in Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) operated stations reached 66 per cent in Manitoba, and 67 per cent nationally by the end of the 2023-24 fiscal year.

When I raised these concerns with you at the Committee of Northern and Indigenous Affairs on March 20th, 2024, you stated that you have “thrown everything at the wall”, and that you will do “whatever it requires” to solve this serious problem. And yet, as ISC indicates, your department hired only one licensed practical nurses between September 2022 to December 2023 in Manitoba. Furthermore, vacancies for ISC-registered nurses increased by 10 per cent nationally, the largest year-over-year increase in the third quarter. The numbers are clear. Your government’s approach on healthcare for First Nations is a failure—they are being deprived of the healthcare they desperately need.

The fact that every nursing station in the Manitoba region staffed by ISC is running at reduced capacity due to staffing shortages is a clear failure on the part of your government.

The lack of nurses and healthcare professionals comes at a cost to patients, families, and communities. I have heard heartbreaking stories from constituents about the impacts of the lack of capacity and care in their communities. I have also heard from nurses who go above and beyond given the shortages the communities face. Unfortunately, numerous First Nations have had to share announcements in their communities and online that their nursing station is closed for non-urgent appointments due to the nursing shortage.

In March 2024, Cross Lake First Nation had to declare a state of emergency due to the nursing shortage crisis. Having only four nurses for a community that has over 8,000 people means that people are not getting the care they need, and nurses are burning out.

The problem is made worse by the fact that 86 per cent of nurses employed by ISC are in part-time positions. Why aren't the positions full-time? How can anyone expect adequate healthcare services for patients and adequate support for nurses in such a situation? Questions about your department’s approach remain.

Healthcare is a human right and a treaty right that your government has failed to uphold. Delivering healthcare for First Nations is also central to reconciliation.

Your government has acknowledged the nursing shortage, but that seems to be where it ends. First Nations need access to nurses now.

I urge your department to take this matter seriously and put a concrete plan in place to fix the nursing shortage in nursing stations on First Nations in Manitoba and across Canada.


Niki Ashton - (Churchill—Keewatinook Aski)