Aboriginal Health Human Resources Initiative (AHHRI)

The AHHRI aims to lay the foundation for longer term systemic changes in the supply, demand and creation of supportive environments for First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. - AHHRI Mission Statement

What is the aboriginal health human resources initiative (AHHRI)?

ahhri background

In 1996, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) identified a gap between the health status of Aboriginal people and the rest of the Canadian population.  To address this, RCAP recommended the development of an Aboriginal health human resources strategy (3.3) and more specifically recommended that "federal, provincial, territorial governments commit themselves to providing the necessary funding, consistent with their jurisdictional responsibilities, to train 10,000 Aboriginal professionals over a 10-year period in health and social services, including medicine, nursing, mental health, psychology, social work, dentistry, nutrition, addictions, gerontology, public health, community development, planning, health administration, and other priority areas identified by Aboriginal people (3.3.14)".

In September 2004, at the Special Meeting of the First Ministers with Aboriginal leaders, the federal government announced the creation of the Aboriginal Health Human Resources Initiative (AHHRI), an allotment of $100M over five years intended to develop and implement Health Human Resources Strategies (HHRS) that respond to the unique needs and diversity among First Nations, Inuit and Métis. AHHRI was built on the work already underway through the 2003 Pan-Canadian Health Human Resources Strategy, a federal commitment to an overall dynamic HHRS founded on the principle of collaboration with provinces and territories, non-governmental organizations and other federal departments.  Following this same principle, Health Canada's First Nations and Inuit Health (FNIH) would develop and implement AHHRI in collaboration and partnership with Aboriginal, other federal, provincial, territorial and health professional associations as well as educational institutions.

AHHRI got underway at the national level in 2005-2006 and in the regions in 2006-2007.  The first five years of AHHRI, now referred to as "AHHRI Phase I", commenced in 2010.  In March 2010, the Federal Budget committed another $40 M to renew the AHHRI for two more years and in December 2010, "AHHRI Phase II" was given a further extension making AHHRI another five-year federally-funded initiative with an allotment of $80M to commence in 2015. 


AHHRI seeks to reduce the gap in health status that currently exists between Aboriginal people and the rest of the Canadian population, through improved access to health care, and resulting better health outcomes.  In order to accomplish this goal, AHHRI seeks to provide the right balance and numbers of First Nations, Inuit and Métis health care providers; increase the level of cultural competency of health care providers; and respond to the current, new and emerging health service issues and priorities. 

The AHHRI aims to lay the foundation for longer term systemic changes in the supply, demand and creation of supportive environments for First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. - AHHRI Mission Statement

AHHRI program elements

AHHRI has three priority areas:

  • Increase in Health Care Providers - including health career promotion/awareness; increase in accessibility to health career educational programs by expanding investment in health career students through scholarships and bursaries; increasing bridging, access and mentorship programs for FN/I/M students at post-secondary institutions; addressing systemic barriers to admission and advancement; addressing cultural competency including the development of culturally-relevant educational curricula.
  • Improve Retention - including addressing barriers to retention of health care workers; improving conditions that optimize retention; core competencies and certification of community-based allied health workers; and cultural competency of health care workers.
  • Supportive Elements - including knowledge and information dissemination and research; investment in capacity of FN/I/M to meaningfully participate in AHHRI and to address issues and carry out projects unique to their populations; and engage, work and collaborate with provinces, territories, health associations, educational institutions and other government departments to help establish roles and responsibilities and create opportunities to leverage investments.

AHHRI activities are implemented through two processes:

  • National projects/workplans
  • Regional projects/workplans

Role of APC

Regional AHHRI projects/workplans are developed and funded through a collaborative process between regional officials of FNIH (Health Canada), Provincial/Territorial Organizations (PTOs) and Land Claims Organizations (LCOs).

The Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat (APC) is considered one of these PTOs (or Provincial/Territorial Organizations). The FNIH Regional AHHRI Program Officer works in partnership with the AHHRI Coordinator(s) at APC and the Nunatsiavut Government (NG), an LCO, to implement AHHRI activities throughout the Atlantic Region. 


"AHHRI Phase II" continues with the same principle of collaboration yet with a refocused mandate. Through this collaboration as well as partnerships with a number of other organizations, many activities from AHHRI Phase I are now complete while others have continued into AHHRI Phase II.  And whereas the work of AHHRI continues to require activity at both national and regional levels, the key roles of AHHRI Phase II regional activities are now:

  • To continue to support changes and improvements in the systems aimed at improving the numbers of First Nations and Inuit health care workers (regulated and unregulated) to meet current and growing health care needs. Therefore, AHHRI Phase II will support:
    • Health Career Promotion initiatives that create the awareness and interest in health career opportunities among the youth; and
    • Post-Secondary Initiatives that create supportive environments in health sciences programs at post-secondary educational institutions to increase enrolment and success of First Nations and Inuit students in their programs.
  • To work toward improving the ongoing recruitment and retention of health care providers in the communities.  Therefore, AHHRI Phase II will also support:
    • Training strategies for Community-Based unregulated health care; and
    • Ongoing Health Human Resources (HHR) planning capacity building of First Nations and Inuit.

Please note: cultural competency and curriculum adaptation for cultural competency projects will no longer be administered at the regional level.


Health Career promotions

actua (science camps & workshops)

Actua, a national charitable organization, works with support from AHHRI to engage Aboriginal students in the fields of science and technology by holding community-based science camps and workshops within Aboriginal communities.  Exposing science and technology to Aboriginal students will hopefully increase their enrolment into high school science courses thereby increasing preparedness for post-secondary programs in the health professions. 

There are three members of Actua located at host institutions within the Atlantic Region:

With AHHRI support, Actua held a number of community-based science camps in First Nations communities throughout the region.  To download a copy of the summer 2010 Actua Final Report, click here.


The National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation (NAAF) is a nationally registered charity with a mandate to provide financial support to First Nations, Inuit and Métis individuals who are pursuing education and professional development.

NAAF Industry in the Classroom Health Careers classroom modules

AHHRI and NAAF work in partnership to deliver Industry in the Classroom: Health Careers modules in order to promote health careers to Aboriginal students/youth.

If you are interested in a delivery of the Industries in the Classroom Health Careers module, please complete the Health Careers in the Classroom module form and submit it to the AHHRI Coordinator at APC (contact information is provided on the form).  Once the request has been received your school will be contacted to discuss delivery.

Aboriginal Health Careers Bursary & Scholarship Awards

Aboriginal youth are also encouraged to apply for the Aboriginal Health Careers Bursary & Scholarship Awards:

The purpose of the Aboriginal Health Careers Bursary & Scholarship Awards is to increase the number of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people working in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis health fields. Health Canada selected NAAF to administer its Health Careers Bursary & Scholarship Program that assist Canadian resident First Nations, Inuit and Métis students in pursuing education opportunities leading to professional health careers. - NAAF

Applications to the Aboriginal Health Careers Bursary & Scholarship Awards are due on June 1st annually.

Aboriginal health careers website

AHHRI works in partnership with Atlantic Canada's First Nations Help Desk to develop, expand and maintain the Aboriginal Health Careers website to promote health careers to First Nations students. The website is designed to help Aboriginal people in Atlantic Canada discover and learn about the various job and career opportunities in the health care industry.

The website also includes the Health Taxi Game, a fun driving game to learn about health careers.

aboriginal Career Fairs

AHHRI organizes Aboriginal Career Fairs to promote health careers to First Nations youth/students throughout the region which include a panel of health professionals to speak to the youth/students.

From 2008-2009, AHHRI Aboriginal Career Fairs took place on the following dates:

  • NSCC Aboriginal Career Fair, May 2008
  • Cape Breton University, June 2008
  • St. Mary's First Nation, NB, June 2008
  • Listuguj Aboriginal Career Fair, QC, November 2008
  • UPEI Aboriginal Career Fair, PE, May 2009

UPEI Aboriginal Career Fair (left to right):  Stephanie Jadis (third-year nursing, UPEI), Ashley Jadis (third-year nursing student, UPEI), Wade MacLauchlan (UPEI President), Kim Critchley (Dean of School of Nursing at UPEI; Principle Investigator for AHHRI project at UPEI), John Sylliboy (AHHRI Coordinator at APC, 2007-2009), Julie Bull(AHHRI project manager, UPEI) and John Joe Sark (Keptin of the Mi'kmaq Grand Council, PEI)

Aboriginal Post-Secondary initiatives

AHHRI supports post-secondary initiatives that create supportive environments in health sciences programs at post-secondary educational institutions to increase enrolment and success of First Nations and Inuit students in their programs. From 2008-2010, the following post-secondary initiatives were supported by AHHRI at APC:

  • Aboriginal Health Sciences Initiative (AHSI), Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS  
  • Aboriginal Nursing Student Seminar Option, St. Francis-Xavier University, Antigonish, NS
  • Aboriginal Health Human Resources Initiative (AHHRI), School of Nursing, UNB, Fredericton, NB
  • Aboriginal Education at UPEI, School of Nursing, UPEI, Charlottetown, PE
  • Aboriginal Health Human Resources Initiative (AHHRI), Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University, St. John's, NL
  • Aboriginal Bridging Program (Pilot), College of the North Atlantic, Happy Valley-Goose Bay campus, NL

New post-secondary initiatives starting in 2010 have begun.

other past AHHRI Projects

Cultural Competency Project - "Planting the Seed"

In 2005, the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat (APC) decided to undertake a project for enhancing cultural understanding of First Nations. This project was unique in its development as it involved establishing and implementing three (3) documents to help with creating awareness:

The "Planting the Seed" series is sharing and teaching about First Nations culture.  The tree represents a symbol of life and began as a seed.  As the seed gets nourished the more it will flourish.  Like the tree of life, the person will also flourish when cultural nourishment is given.  It helps to grow the individual, family, community and nation.  The sharing of this information helps to plant the seed that leads to a life long journey of learning.  Sharing - the First Nation Way. - The Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs & the Elders Advisory Committee

© 2007 Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs - permission to reproduce these documents or any portion thereof is required

*Please note that some information in these documents have since been outdated.  APC is currently working on updating these documents.

CONTACT information

John R. Sylliboy, AHHRI Coordinator