For immediate release
March 21, 2021

Treaty Five Territory, Thompson, MB Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc. is issuing this statement calling for all governments, non-Indigenous organizations, health professionals, and society to implement immediate actions in eliminating racial discrimination faced by First Nations.

Grand Chief Garrison Settee states:

“First Nations have and continue to face racism throughout society in all aspects of our lives that we encounter such as in the workplace, resource extraction and destruction of our lands, and accessing socio-economic services and programs. Racism is a form of violence and it comes in many forms. One form of racism is exclusion of First Nations in government decision-making structures and tables where significant decisions are made on our behalf with little to no inclusion.


The United Nation’s theme for the International Day for the Elimination of Discrimination this year is ‘youth standing up against racism.’ In the north, children and youth make up a significant proportion of the community. This theme recognizes our youth’s power and gifts to make real change. Youth are our future and MKO is developing actions and continues to advocate to empower our youth and create paths in society that will benefit them and our future generations. For example, MKO recently administered a survey for youth ages 12 to 18. The input from youth will help us to develop strategies to ensure their health and wellness needs are supported during COVID-19 and beyond.


I will be meeting with the Helga Bryant, the Chief Executive Officer of the Northern Health Region next week to discuss opportunities to address anti-Indigenous racism in the health care system as a first step to improving access to and quality of health services and programs for Northern First Nations.


Last week I had the opportunity to meet with the new Minister of Health and Seniors Care as a first step to developing mutual and respectful relationships with the provincial government to transform health in provincial system and to support the Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin. I see much opportunity in the months ahead to create concrete actions and set up governance and decision-making structures with the Ministry. This will ensure Northern First Nations inform the highest decision-making tables within the provincial government to improve health services and programs. For example, as the current CEO nears retirement, I asked the Minister to consider a First Nation CEO to oversee the Northern Health Region to truly represent the population served in the north that can integrate our inherent traditions, languages, cultures, and medicines and understand our traditions and worldview to transform the health care system.


Further, I will be reaching out to the Minister of Indigenous Services Canada for an update on the co-development of the distinction-based Indigenous health legislation to ensure the Northern First Nations are engaged and consulted meaningfully in that important work. Addressing racism will be one key area the legislations need to address. I will also be advocating for the federal government to create mechanisms to hold provincial governments accountable through the Canada Health Transfer Agreements to ensure accountability and delivery of culturally safe health services towards First Nations.


MKO is also working to address racism in the area of First Nations policing, informing the UNDRIP Bill C-15 legislation, working with Northern First Nations to implement the child welfare legislation, and in many other areas.  We have a lot of work ahead of us and today is an opportune time to remind all of us of our responsibility to adhere to international and domestic instruments and obligations to eliminate racial discrimination, particularly as it relates to Northern First Nations.


Today I want to reiterate that racism in our territory and off our territory will no longer be tolerated. We will continue to advocate and use available legal processes to build our nations, work towards equity for our citizens, and to implement our inherent and Treaty Rights. We do this work for our children and future generations.”


Video messages:

Part one: Grand Chief Settee reflects on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination:

Part two: Grand Chief Settee reflects on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: