WINNIPEG -- The Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Government of Canada on Thursday aimed at transforming healthcare for Manitoba’s southern First Nations.

The socially-distanced ceremony took place in Winnipeg, as well as online, with SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels, Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller, and Pine Creek Chief Karen Batson providing remarks and signing the document.

The memorandum will allow Anishinaabeg and Dakota peoples to take more control over their health and wellness.

“This is a very powerful moment in our history,” said Daniels.

“Important because it marks an important step in exercising our treaty and inherent right to health in the way our ancestors intended.”

The MOU outlines the principles for equitable and culturally-appropriate healthcare for the 34 First Nations in the SCO. It also formalizes the SCO’s and government’s commitment to working together.

“This MOU represents a renewed relationship as we work together to create a system of First Nations-led health governance and a better, more integrated and responsive health system for all First Nations people living in southern Manitoba,” Miller said.

“Our work together will ensure that First Nations have access to a broader continuum of care and better access to services that are rooted in First Nations culture, values, and traditions.”

Through the health transformation, a new governance structure that is representative of First Nations, will be implemented.

The MOU acknowledges the expertise of First Nations and healthcare professionals to develop the healthcare system, which will be community-led and involve physical, spiritual, mental, economic, environmental, social, and cultural wellness. 

“We want a new First Nations health governance structure that will assume greater control over the design, delivery, funding, and management of health programs and services to improve the quality of life of all our people,” said Daniels.

In 2019, the SCO Chiefs-in-Summit passed a resolution to support the health transformation called ‘Exercising our Treaty and Inherent Rights to Health.”