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SCO Announces Leader Working to Transform Health for Southern First Nations

January 10, 2024

“SCO Nations will benefit from the strengths and expertise of Karlene Debance” – Grand Chief Daniels


ANISHINAABE AND DAKOTA TERRITORY, MB — The Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) is pleased to announce the appointment of Karlene S. Debance as the inaugural Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for Health Transformation.

“The Southern Chiefs’ Organization is thrilled to announce the hiring of Karlene Debance,” said Grand Chief Jerry Daniels. “There is an 11-year and growing gap in life expectancy between First Nations and non-First Nations people in Manitoba. As we continue to work towards transforming health services and outcomes for Anishinaabe and Dakota Nations and citizens, we look forward to benefitting from the strengths this leader brings to the table.”

The creation of a Southern First Nations Health Authority is historic. Playing a pivotal role in ensuring that the health needs of the 34 SCO member Nations are addressed in a holistic way, Ms. Debance, a seasoned leader in non-profits and government will lead the creation and implementation of this new entity. It will be the first of its kind to focus on delivering and transforming health services specifically for the 34 southern Anishinaabe and Dakota Nations SCO represents.

“There are many dedicated individuals who have been working to implement Health Transformation programs and projects at the Southern Chiefs’ Organization,” shared Chief Cornell McLean of the Lake Manitoba First Nation. “I want to thank Mona Bencharski, Director of Innovation and Special Projects for Health Transformation, for taking on a leadership role while we searched for our CEO. I also thank all members of our Elders and Knowledge Keepers Committee, Gender-Based Violence Advisory Circle, as well as our Chiefs’ Health Action Table for your ongoing dedication to transforming health for SCO member Nations.”

The Health Transformation Team relies on guidance and advice from community members. As the Elders and Knowledge Keepers have shared with the team on many occasions, it is essential that First Nations citizens have access to health services and programs developed by and for First Nations.

“Our Elders and Knowledge Keepers have provided the names Wicozani Hduha Mani: Walk with Health and O-Nii-Gah-Neek Mino Ayawin: Leaders in Healthfor the work being done bySCO Health Transformation. This new health authority is an opportunity for First Nations to take back control of their own health and lay a foundation in a good way for future generations,” concluded Grand Chief Daniels.

Learn more about SCO’s Health Transformation work here.


The Southern Chiefs’ Organization represents 34 First Nations and more than 85,500 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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