The federal government has entered into a new partnership with the Onion Lake Cree Nation over how health services are administered and funded in the community.

The goal of the new agreement will be to create a funding arrangement between Ottawa and Onion that is firmly grounded in treaty rights and relationship. They also hope the partnership will lead to the improved delivery of health services in the community while remaining respectful of treaty rights.

Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott and Onion Lake Chief Wallace Fox signed the memorandum of understanding in the border First Nation Thursday morning.

“We still see First Nations experiencing poor health outcomes,” said Minister Philpott. “The fact that treaties haven’t been respected is the root of the governmental policies that lead to those socio-economic gaps.”

The new agreement the two parties entered into is based on the “medicine chest” commitments in Treaty 6, signed in 1876.

The original commitment by the Crown in the treaty was that a medicine chest would be kept at the house of the local Indian agent, which would be used by the community in times of need.

The MOU is based on this idea and is aimed toward ensuring Onion Lake has constant access to this now metaphorical medicine chest.

“This is what sustainable and treaty-based healthcare looks like,” said Philpott.

The MOU went further into how this new funding arrangement could unfold.

“Onion Lake Cree Nation asserts their right to discuss with Canada the development and implementation of a treaty-based funding arrangement between the Crown in Right of Canada and the Treaty Peoples of Onion Lake Cree Nation,” the MOU stated.

Both Minster Philpot and Chief Fox spoke highly on what they think this new partnership between the feds and the Saskatchewan First Nation can achieve.

“(This agreement) commits Canada and the Onion Lake Cree Nation to the development of a treaty relationship-based funding agreement in health,” said Philpot. “This MOU will support Onion Lake as they provide services that best meet the health needs of their members.”

“When our ancestors put the medicine chest clause in the treaty, they were thinking of future generations,” said Chief Fox. “We are thinking of future generations as we enter into this MOU.”

Hundreds of members joined at the local community centre for a morning of prayer and ceremony before the MOU was officially signed.

(PHOTO: Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott and Onion Lake Chief Wallace Fox sign MOU. Photo by Joel Willick.)