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Historic MOU signed

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Representatives from organization working with the Lac La Ronge Indian Band signed a historic Truth and Reconciliation Memorandum of Understanding signifying a closer working relationship.

The signatories, Chief Tammy Cook-Searson, chief of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band (LLRIB), Ron Woytowich, chair of the Mamawetan Churchill River Regional Health Authority (MCRRHA), and Dr. Preston Smith, Dean of the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine, cited the impact on First Nation people of the residential school system and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) 94 Calls to Action, eight of which involve health, as the basis for the MOU.

LLRIB and its communities requested the MOU, believed to be the first such agreement in Saskatchewan.

Cook-Searson spoke about the impacts of the residential school system on her people and outlined the eight TRC Calls to Action, which involve health, as she talked about the importance of the signing for the people, many of who suffered abuses in the schools.

“We still speak our language and our culture is still strong and this [the MOU signing] is building on that strength that we have,” Cook-Searson said.

Thanking Cook-Searson and LLRIB for creating the MOU, Woytowich spoke with much emotion of the importance of the MOU saying he sees the impacts first hand daily in the work of the Kikinahk Friendship Centre, where he is CEO.

The initiative began about four years ago with the Health Service Integration Fund Steering Committee, of which all three entities are members, working to explore where they could work together to improve health services.

With the release of the TRC Final report, “The thought was this would be a way to formally recognize the work that we were doing and put it in the context of the improvements that were needed,” Andrew McLetchie, MCRRHA’s CEO said.

Northern Medical Services hires the doctors who work in the healthcare system in northern communities; the doctors do not operate private practices.

“The MOU will signify the pivotal role each partner plays in addressing First Nation health in northern Saskatchewan,” quoted from a LLRIB news release.

By Valerie G. Barnes-Connell

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