Training First Nations first responders in B.C.

Medical help can sometimes be far away if you’re living in rural and remote First Nations communities in British Columbia. In the past, getting on-call emergency assistance to people in need could be a major challenge. The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) is working with the Canadian Red Cross to change that.

With FNHA support, the Red Cross is now providing First Responder advanced first aid training opportunities to First Nations people, near their home communities.

“This initiative responds to an identified need in our communities and enhances capacity directly at the Nation level to save lives,” said Melanie Rivers, FNHA Senior Advisor, Strategic Policy.

The First Nations First Responder program was piloted last year in the Vancouver Island Health Region. All 22 participants, from seven different communities, graduated with the skills to help keep their families and neighbours alive while they wait for advanced medical help.

That success led to a larger rollout of the program this summer in six different locations, across four of B.C’s five health regions. FNHA expects the training will benefit as many as 50 First Nations communities and approximately 120 First Responders before the end of the year.

Training First Nations first responders in BC

Samantha Bisaillon, seated on the left at the First Nations First Responder Graduation Ceremony at the Tzeachten Community Centre, June 9.


Samantha Bisaillon is feeling confident after passing her First Responder training in June.

“I feel more secure knowing I can help care for my family and friends when injuries happen,” Bisaillon said.

She remembers when her neighbour – another member of the Soowahlie Band in the Fraser Valley – was injured in a fall during a brutal winter storm. Bisaillon felt bad because she couldn’t do anything while waiting for paramedics to get through the snow.

“Sometimes the gate at the top of the reserve is closed and access can be difficult,” said Bisaillon “Even finding addresses can be tough. Having that local knowledge will help me get to people quickly when they’re in trouble.”

As a trained first responder, Bisaillon can now provide timely help to the sick and injured, and prepare them for efficient transport to the hospital.

“The staff and community members who step forward for this training are taking on a critical role in their communities and should be proud of their accomplishments,” added Rivers. “The FNHA is pleased to partner with the Red Cross on such important work for the wellbeing of First Nations communities. We look forward to our growing partnership and the work ahead.”

At the Canadian Red Cross, excitement for the First Nations First Responder training program is building. 

“We are so happy to be able to work alongside the FNHA to improve health outcomes in B.C.,” said Red Cross Manager for Northern and Aboriginal Engagement, Becky Row. “This training can save lives, and will make a difference for hundreds of people living in rural and remote First Nations communities.”

To find out more about the First Nations First Responder program, please contact Becky Row at [email protected].




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