SCO and Canada Sign Historic Agreement-in-Principle on Health Governance

Press Release

June 27, 2024

ANISHINAABE AND DAKOTA TERRITORY, MB —The Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) and Canada signed an Agreement-in-Principle on Health Governance on June 26, 2024. This document outlines how health programs and services will be transferred from Indigenous Services Canada to the soon-to-be-established Southern First Nations Health Authority that will serve the 34 Anishinaabe and Dakota Nations.

“This is a historic transformation of health care developed by First Nations for First Nations and an important milestone in the Southern Chiefs’ Organization’s health transformation journey. We are committed to providing our citizens with high quality health care that is culturally safe, free of racism, and available in their Nations,” stated SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels.

The Agreement-in-Principle on Health Governance sets the stage for establishing the largest transformational health process in Manitoba and involves the transfer of federal First Nation health and capital program services to the Southern First Nation Health Authority. SCO is pleased to present on this important health transformation process at the United Nations
17th session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Geneva, Switzerland next month.

“The signing of the Agreement-in-Principle is an important step we are taking with our Treaty partners to decolonize health care,” shared Chief Cornell McLean of the Lake Manitoba First Nation. “SCO is pleased to be the second entity in Canada to enter into an Agreement-in-Principle with Canada. There is an 11-year gap in life expectancy for First Nation citizens when compared with all others in Manitoba. It is critical that we provide safe, culturally supportive, and holistic care to our citizens to address this health inequity. The Southern First Nations Health Authority will have a governance structure that ensures our citizens and Nations lead decision making and can guide the development of programs and services that are a priority for them.”

Call to Action #19 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada calls on the federal government to work with First Nations to identify and close the gaps in health outcomes between First Nations and non-First Nation communities. SCO is committed to walking on this path of reconciliation with Canada and Manitoba to enact change within the health care system and support better health outcomes for SCO citizens.

“A key commitment weaved throughout the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Calls to Action, is the right of Indigenous peoples to be involved in developing programs and the ability to administer them,” stated Indigenous Services Canada Minister Patty Hajdu. “This Agreement-in-Principle with the Southern Chiefs’ Organization will transform the health systems in southern Manitoba, so that it is more effective, sustainable and responsive to the needs of First Nations Peoples.”.

“Everyone should be able to access the best-quality care, and in partnership with SCO and the Government of Canada, we know we can make important changes that make health care better in southern Manitoba. We commend this important agreement, and look forward to working together to make sure that high-quality, culturally safe care is available close to home for families.” shared Uzoma Asagwara, Minister of Health, Seniors and Long-Term Care

The Agreement-in-Principle paves the way for a Tripartite Framework Agreement with Canada and Manitoba that will include transfer mechanisms for funding to the Southern First Nation Health Authority. This will include developing health programs and services that address the unique needs and priorities of each SCO member Nation. Programs and services will incorporate traditional Anishinaabe and Dakota teachings, medicines, and knowledge to support the holistic health of southern First Nation citizens.

“The voices and needs of SCO citizens will be at the heart of the Southern First Nations Health Authority. Each Nation has priorities and concerns that will need to be heard and addressed in a way that supports them best. Listening to our Nations is our guiding principle,” stated Karlene Debance, Chief Executive Officer of SCO Health Transformation.


The Southern Chiefs’ Organization represents 34 First Nations and more than 87,000 citizens in what is now called southern Manitoba. SCO is an independent political organization that protects, preserves, promotes, and enhances First Nations peoples’ inherent rights, languages, customs, and traditions through the application and implementation of the spirit and intent of the Treaty-making process.

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