SCO Asserts Importance of Transforming Health for First Nations at the United Nations

July 9, 2024

“The 34 southern Anishinaabe and Dakota Nations face inequalities and deficiencies in health that
are also experienced by Indigenous populations all over the world.” –Grand Chief Jerry Daniels


ANISHINAABE AND DAKOTA TERRITORY, MB — The Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) has delivered a special presentation to a global audience about the importance of transforming and improving health for First Nations. A delegation comprised of SCO leadership and team members attended and presented to the 17th session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

“It’s vital that we share this information on an international stage, as Indigenous peoples across the globe face similar challenges to their health and well-being due to colonization,” stated SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels. “The ongoing 11-year-gap in life expectancy between First Nations and non-First Nations people in our Territories needs to end. I am so proud that we were able to showcase the work and progress we have made towards transforming health care with the goal of ending the gap in life expectancy for First Nations citizens to the United Nations.”

The SCO delegation highlighted our transformative work along with findings that came from our international health gathering that took place in Winnipeg in March 2024. The presentation was part of the panel called “Self-determination and Indigenous Health Transformation.”

Our presentation team included SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels; Dr. Phil Fontaine, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN); SCO Youth Chief Tréchelle Bunn; SCO Youth Chief Joshua Gandier; Kathleen Mahoney, former Chief Negotiator for the AFN; Chief Wilton Littlechild, former member, Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; Dr. Mariam Wallet Aboubarkaine, former member, United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; Joy Cramer, SCO Chief Executive Officer (CEO); Karlene Debance, CEO of SCO Health Transformation; and Céleste McKay, President, Céleste McKay Consulting Inc.

“As a young leader, I am grateful to be a part of this historic occasion,” said SCO Youth Chief Tréchelle Bunn. “The gaps when it comes to delivering health care to our citizens are still huge, and it will be up to our youth to continue this vital work to correct generations of systemic harm.”

“It is an honour to serve on the SCO Youth Council and to be a part of this delegation,” added SCO Youth Chief Josh Gandier. “The negative impacts of colonization on the health of Indigenous populations are far-reaching. As an aspiring lawyer, I know this experience will both serve and inspire me as I work towards a specialization in international law.”

SCO was asked to share our story, in particular the Agreement-in-Principle that was recently signed with the federal government, as it is a significant milestone and serves as a model for other Indigenous jurisdictions in their own journey to transform and improve health. It is only the second agreement of its kind for health transformation in Canada.

“Today’s presentation will now be on international record and position SCO as a leader in health transformation worldwide,” said SCO’s CEO for Health Transformation Karlene Debance. “Along with our member Nations, this will also reflect positively on Canada as a Treaty partner that is committed to decolonizing health care in partnership with First Nations.”

SCO is working to establish a Southern First Nation Health Authority. You can read more about our health transformation plans and updates by visiting:


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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