NAN Mourns Passing of Peter Fiddler, Last Surviving Member of Sandy Lake Hunger Strike
THUNDER BAY, ON: Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler expressed condolences following the sad passing of Peter Fiddler, the last survivor of the ‘Sandy Lake Five’, whose hunger strike in the 1980s raised national awareness about the deplorable state of health care for NAN First Nations:
“We are deeply saddened to learn of Peter’s passing, and we mourn the loss of our dear friend with his family and the entire community of Sandy Lake First Nation.
The actions of Peter and the Sandy Lake Five helped to focus a national spotlight on the horrific injustices inflicted on our members and directly contributed to an overhaul of health services in Northwestern Ontario, especially for First Nations peoples.
Researchers have described their hunger strike as a major moment in the history of Canadian medicine. Their actions helped expose how our members were racially segregated in Indian hospitals with sub-standard care, used as guinea pigs by the medical community, and needlessly exploited during trials for research that has now been thoroughly discredited.
We give immense thanks for Peter’s life of leadership and friendship, and pray for the Creator to guide him on his journey to the Spirit World. We will honour his legacy through our ongoing work to improve health care for our members and communities.”
The Sandy Lake Five, Peter Fiddler, Josias Fiddler, Peter Goodman, Luke Mamakeesic, and Allan Meekis fasted in the visitor’s lounge at the Sioux Lookout Zone Hospital in January 1988, gaining national media attention over the deplorable health conditions of First Nations in NAN territory.
A Health Panel investigated issues in the Sioux Lookout region and recommended solutions to improve health care delivery. It included Archbishop Ted Scott, former Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Wally McKay, former Grand Chief of Grand Council Treaty #9 (NAN), and Dr. Harry Bain, former Psychiatrist-in-Chief at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
The 138-page Report of the Scott-Mckay-Bain Health Panel, From Here to There: Steps Along the Way, was released in May 1989 in Muskrat Dam First Nation. Among its 94 Recommendations, the Report recommended a move towards ‘Native self-government with the full participation of First Nations communities for the ongoing responsibility of health care.’ This led to the establishment of the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority and the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre.
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