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A Message from the First Nations Health Council


Following the March 21 joint FNHA-FNHC-FNHDA call to postpone or cancel all gatherings, the FNHC calls on community leadership, Hereditary Chiefs, Matriarchs and Spiritual Leaders to help reinforce the critical public health advice to postpone cultural gatherings and large ceremonies.

Please respect this critical advice – our spiritual teachings place our Elders and most vulnerable citizens at the forefront of our collective responsibilities to our communities and Nations. During this time of self-isolation and physical distancing (6-feet from each other), please use this time for prayer and self-reflection, stay safe and protect the health of you and your family.

As leaders within your communities, you play a key role in making sure everyone is healthy and safe.  The four most important things that you can do:

  • Encourage everyone to be kind, calm and stay healthy by following public health guidelines.
  • Support community leadership to ensure compliance with the handwashing and physical distancing recommendations and the March 21 call to cancel or postpone all gatherings.
  • Check FNHC.ca/coronavirus for the latest information and resources on COVID-19 for individuals, health professionals and communities.
  • Take responsibility for staying informed and sharing only trusted resources – misinformation can be harmful and cause greater risk to our communities and overburden staff. In this evolving situation, sometimes the answer isn’t known or available right now.

Other ways of supporting your health staff in dealing with COVID-19 include:

  • Review your existing Communicable Disease Emergency Plan (Pandemic Plan) and update it as needed.
  • Review the community’s supply of essentials.
  • Where there is one, check to see if the community health centre or nursing stations requires additional support to prepare for possible coronavirus patients.
  • Train and prepare staff to cover for each other as people may need time off to care for their families or for themselves.
  • Involve the whole community in efforts to prevent the spread of the virus by sharing tips on how to prevent its spread, as well as how to recognize the symptoms in each other.

If your community has concerns about access to care relating to COVID-19, contact your FNHA Regional Team or covid19@fnha.ca. Your First Nation Health Council regional representatives are also a source of information and support during this crisis – please call on them.

FNHA/FNHC/FNHDA Advise Against All Gatherings to Prevent COVID-19 Spreading


For Immediate Release
COAST SALISH TERRITORY – VANCOUVER, BC –The First Nations Health Authority, the First Nations Health Council and the First Nations Health Directors Association are strongly advising communities to cancel or postpone all community and cultural gatherings until the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.​

With the increasing evidence about the rapid spread of COVID-19 in British Columbia, and on the advice of public health physicians, the First Nations Health Authority also strongly recommends against any unnecessary travel. 

Furthermore, given the unprecedented risk COVID-19 presents, physical distancing is absolutely necessary to prevent serious illness and death in our communities. Please stay at least six feet apart from each other at all time. We are particularly concerned about the Elders and Knowledge Keepers, young children, and those with chronic disease. It is imperative that all of us take responsibility to care for each other by following this public health advice.

We do not make this recommendation lightly—we acknowledge the significance of cultural gatherings and events for First Nations communities, but from a public health standpoint we have the responsibility to communicate the severity of this rapidly evolving situation. Please cancel upcoming events, and reschedule for after this pandemic has passed.

Dr. Shannon McDonald, FNHA Deputy Chief Medical Officer “COVID-19 is a severe respiratory disease that is very easy to transmit from person to person, and that can have deadly consequences. It is in our province and potentially in your community. It only takes one person to carry the disease to their family and community. Gatherings of any kind present an unreasonable risk.

We have a very brief opportunity to prevent the spread and the devastating consequences of this disease in our communities. Any gathering where close contact occurs can cause transmission and none of us are immune. I am especially worried about our Elders, young children and those with underlying health issues.”

Colleen Erickson, FNHA Board Chair “The responsibility lies with each and every one of us to do everything possible to protect ourselves so in turn we protect our families, our elders and community. Especially our Elders who are the keepers of our oral history, language and age old wisdom.”

Charlene Belleau, Chair, First Nations Health Council “The FNHC calls on Hereditary Chiefs, Matriarchs and Spiritual Leaders to help community leadership reinforce the critical public health advice to postpone cultural gatherings and large ceremonies. Please heed this critical advice – our spiritual teachings place our Elders and most vulnerable citizens at the forefront of our collective responsibilities to our Nations. During this time of self-isolation and social distancing (6-feet from each other), please use this time for prayer and self-reflection, stay safe and protect the health of you and your family.”

Keith Marshall, President, First Nations Health Directors Association “We thank and acknowledge those working on the front lines to support community health, including the 150+ Health Directors in BC and our nurses and health professionals. We especially appreciate the work of Health Directors, Chiefs and health boards to ensure community health centres remain open for essential services in this crisis; and we encourage all Health Directors to practice self-care during this extraordinary time.”​

Learn more:
Go to www.fnha.ca/coronavirus for up-to-date information on COVID-19 and resources for you community.
Media Contact: John Moody Telephone: 1-604-831-4898Email: john.moody@fnha.ca
For more on this topic please see this article: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/covid-suspend-sweat-lodges-pipe-ceremonies-1.5504541
To find out more about First Nations Health Authority, visit: http://www.fnha.ca/

Download this media release in PDF format here​

First Nations Health Council Statement at GWX


Presented at the opening of Gathering Wisdom X, Vancouver BC

  • Over the past several months, leadership change has occurred within the First Nations Health Council (FNHC), First Nations Health Directors Association (FNHDA) as well as within operations of the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA). Change is inevitable in any organization. As leaders, we are responsible to plan for both change and transition.
  • Given the current legal proceedings now before the courts, there are limitations to what can be said; however, the start of a new decade offers the opportunity to reflect on the last 10 years, to celebrate the successes and to grow from the challenges. 
  • The 2011 and 2012 Consensus papers and resolutions by Chiefs in Assembly at previous Gathering Wisdom Forums provided an understanding that “significant change requires shifts in attitude, behavior and mindset.” This understanding provides the foundation for the many achievements we’ve collectively realized on our journey to transform the First Nation health governance structure in BC.
  • The FNHC is committed to following the wisdom and 7 Directives provided by BC First Nations leadership: to uphold good governance principles, to support health transformation, and to make progress on the social determinants of health.
  • As 15 of 15, the FNHC continues to heal. We commit to work together to address communication, governance, as well as healing relationships through teachings and culture.
  • The FNHC is launching the Reclaiming Our Connections guidebook engagement process over the next 18 months. Through the guidebook process, we will be seeking direction from BC First Nations leadership on our mandate, roles and responsibilities.
  • The structure and roles of the FNHC will also be reviewed through an evaluation process. This evaluation is intended to assess the progress that we have made against the work mandated by BC First Nations leadership, and what impacts have resulted. We are humbly calling upon the collective wisdom from the First Nation leaders across BC, through the formation of a Chief’s Working Group. This Chief’s Working Group – made up of an appointed Chief’s representative, one (1) from each of the five (5) Regions – will help inform the FNHC’s evaluation statement of work by April 2020.
  • The FNHC remains committed to our main goal of moving from health transfer to health transformation. We need to continue to remember why we are here – we’re here for our people and the health of our people. We look forward to our work together at Gathering Wisdom.

Reclaiming Our Connections–The Next Ten Years


Reclaiming Our ConnectionsThe Next Ten Years, is the theme for Gathering Wisdom for a Shared Journey X scheduled for January 14-16, 2020 at the Vancouver Convention Centre on traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. We hope you’ll join us at the 10th milestone of this event! For more information and to register, visit gathering-wisdom.ca

This theme is rooted in the language of the First Nation Health Council’s Reclaim campaign that expresses the FNHC’s advocacy role in support of our vision for Healthy, Self-Determining and Vibrant BC First Nations Children, Families and Communities – and our belief that the time is now to reclaim our cultural wellness in rebuilding the health and wellness of our Nations.

Gathering Wisdom forums – held every 18 months – manifest the commitments within the Tripartite BC First Nations Health Plan that underpin the transformation of health and wellness for BC First Nations. The forums are sponsored by the First Nations Health Council (FNHC) and bring together First Nations leaders, health and wellness leads, elders and community members to discuss health, mental health and the social determinants of health. This year, Gathering Wisdom will provide an opportunity for leaders and health and wellness leads to learn about promising practices from other communities across BC, discuss the role of health and healing in Nation rebuilding, and discuss new opportunities in the areas of mental health and the social determinants of health. In addition, results from a number of evaluations, including three mandatory evaluations required under the Tripartite Framework Agreement and The Canada Funding Agreement, will be shared.

The FNHC’s Reclaim campaign images and language will be part of Gathering Wisdom X and on our social media channels leading up to the 10th anniversary forum. Attendees will see portraits of First Nations people from across BC and read about what wellness means for them and for their communities.

Honoring our Commitment to End Violence Against Women and Girls


By Charlene Belleau, Chair, First Nations Health Council
As we join together this November 25 to mark the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, I reflect on how this work goes beyond a single day observance. I believe we are all called on to do this work together and accept responsibility for our children and families. Eliminating violence starts with us, with every individual. This in turn creates safer places for children, families and communities.

One way we do this work is through the Commitment Sticks program, a initiative launched at Gathering Wisdom in 2015 using a design created by Esk’etemc Elder Fred Johnson Sr. to signify the sacred responsibilities we have for the health and safety of our Indigenous women and girls. At that event more than 120 Chiefs and leaders held the sticks high and committed to live violence free, and to collectively work together to stop violence against Indigenous women and girls. They acknowledged that honouring our women—grandmothers, mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, partners and nieces—will bring balance back into our lives and ensure healthy and strong families and communities into the future. First Nations across BC have used the Commitment Sticks event toolkit to showcase their community commitment to tackle this issue and bring forward solutions.

Commitment Sticks symbolize an issue that we can—and must—address. They flow from the idea that we must be involved in our own healing; it’s not a matter of bringing in “experts” who can fix the community, but instead it’s us, our culture, our leaders—guided by tradition and ceremony—that can help us to live violence free and remind us of the value of the lives of Indigenous women and girls. The colours of the Commitment Stick represent the need for the four races to work together to stop violence against Indigenous women and girls, with an understanding that we are all equally valuable. With the red, we honour and mourn our murdered and missing Indigenous women; with the yellow, we honour our breath of life; with the black, we honour our body; and with the white, we honour the knowledge and wisdom of the Elders.

Many other programs and campaigns exist in the fight to end violence against women and girls. The Moose Hide campaign is a grassroots movement of Indigenous and non-Indigenous men and boys with a mission to end violence against women and children. A brotherhood for wellness is found in the Dude’s Clubs gatherings that focus on peer-based learning and holistic forms of healing including the medicine wheel. Dude’s Club is supported in part by FNHA and was featured at a recent Northern caucus presentation. The role that addictions and substance abuse play in violence against women and girls is tackled by many programs like those during National Addiction Awareness Week November 25-December 1 which includes events in most of our communities. Sobriety and healing helps us to heal from violence or stop violence.

So what can we do? We need to take notice of all the good things happening as part of this United Nation observance and National Addiction Awareness Week. We need to remember our commitment to not allow another generation of our women and children to fall victim to a cycle of abuse and violence. We need to understand the impact of physical violence, as well other forms of violence – emotional, mental or spiritual.

All of these programs and initiatives are part of raising awareness, reducing stigma, healing and changing minds and behavior. What we need is for all Leaders, frontline workers and community members to begin thinking this way and doing their part acknowledging this work every day. Violence against Indigenous women and girls is not just an issue now that it’s before the media and the public—it’s been an issue for several years. The government and the police may now have their programs, policies and procedures, but at the end of the day, violence against our women is also a community responsibility.

My push is for us to provide leadership and to do something ourselves, without worrying about what the government or police are doing about it. We might not be able to control what’s going on in a big city or anywhere else, but we can start with our own families and communities and Nations. For example, Esk’etemc frontline workers and leadership work together and all agree that the cycle of intergenerational trauma, including violence, has to stop with us. Regardless of whether we were abused at residential school, we must not pass it on to our children. Each man has signed a pledge to live violence free, stop violence against women and hold other men accountable. I encourage all delegates to being their commitment sticks to Gathering Wisdom X in January 2020!

First Nations Health Council Welcomes Publication of MMIWG Report as Important First Step


Coast Salish Territory – The First Nations Health Council (FNHC) welcomes today’s publication of the National Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls report as an important step towards protecting our women going forward.

The women of the FNHC, as part of the regionally appointed Council providing leadership and advocacy in health transformation in British Columbia, submitted oral and written testimony to the inquiry. Many of our recommendations on the importance of cultural safety and quality health and wellness services have been included in the collective response to this crisis.

“We stand with our sisters and their families, holding up those who can no longer speak for themselves,” said FNHC Member Tania Dick. “At the FNHC we are working today to shape better health outcomes for generations to come.”

In the past, many communities and Nations here in BC were matrilineal and guided by the voices of women and it is in that spirit that our women leaders have come forward now.

The FNHC strongly supports the report’s recommendation on the need to implement a wide array of health and wellness supports for women, especially mental health supports, to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma and providing them the protection and care they deserve.

This truth gathering has given voice at last to almost 1,500 family members and survivors of this serial tragedy.

“I am relieved that something is finally being done, that people are finally acknowledging the truth,” said Ms. Dick. “Now we can begin to respond to this with meaningful action.”

Media Contact:

John Moody


Download this press release in PDF format here (549 KB)

Evolving Engagement Structure


Evolving how we engage: First Nations Health Council, First Nations Health Authority and First Nations Health Directors Association separate political and technical conversations.

The separation of business from politics is a hallmark of the BC First Nations Health Governance Structure. This principle is captured in our founding documents including the seven directives.

Through regional caucus evaluations and feedback from leadership The FNHC, FNHA and FNHDA have heard a clear message that we still have work to do to meet this principle.  We also heard that the best way to respect the time of both Chiefs and Health Directors is to continue to separate these conversations.

Since Transfer, the types of discussions and engagement we need to undertake in order to change the health system have grown in both scope and specificity. That’s why this spring we are introducing separate events for Chiefs and Health Directors and caregivers as follows.

Regional Health and Wellness Forums are new annual health service focused engagements and information sharing events. Two community delegates are invited to attend: one Health Director, and one additional attendee.

Regional Governance Caucuses are annual political and decision-making forums. One Chief or political lead is invited to attend.

Finally, every fall we will bring both conversations together in every region. The Fall Regional Health Assemblies will bring together the FNHA/FNHC/FNHDA to engage and share information on matters that are relevant to both political and technical leads, such as the Annual Report and Audited Statements.

2019/2020 is a learning year- there is an exception.

In an effort to ensure we are meeting the needs of Chiefs and Health Directors/Leads, the following outlines the evolved engagement activities for the coming year:

  • A two (2) day Governance Caucus for Political and Governance Leaders and Chiefs in Spring 2019 for 1 (one) political lead and 1 (one) Health Director/Lead (2019/2020 only)
  • A two (2) day Health and Wellness Forum for Community Caregivers and Health Directors, that will include FNHDA and FNHA in Spring 2019 for 1(one) Health Director/Lead and 1(one) additional attendee
  • A two (2) day Fall Regional Health Assembly for Leaders, Chiefs and Health Leads and Caregivers in Fall of 2019 for 1(one) political lead, 1(one) Health Director, and 1(one) technical lead

Next Steps

Please stay tuned for registration dates for the following upcoming events in your region.

Region Event Date Location
Interior Governance Caucus May 15-16, 2019 Registration Open!
Interior RHW Forum April 16-18, 2019 Registration Closed
Vancouver Island Governance Caucus June 4-6, 2019 TBD
Vancouver Island RHW Forum  TBD TBD
Fraser Governance Caucus June 10-11, 2019 TBD 
Fraser RHW Forum May 2-3, 2019  (Joint with VCC) Registration Open!
North  Governance Caucus June 25-26, 2019 Prince George
North  RHW Forum July 16-18, 2019 (TBC) Prince George
Vancouver Coastal Governance Caucus TBD (Looking to June) TBD
Vancouver Coastal RHW Forum May 2-3, 2019 (Joint with Fraser) Registration Open!

We encourage all Chiefs and Health Directors to remember to provide feedback through the evaluations on the evolving engagement structure at our upcoming meetings.

The FNHA, FNHDA and FNHC will report back on the feedback received on the evolving engagement structure based on evaluation data.

If you have any specific questions about the upcoming Regional Governance Caucuses, Regional Health and Wellness Forums, or Fall Regional Health Assembly please review the attached FAQs or get in touch with your regional teams.

Read the FAQs here (PDF 152 KB)

Orientation Video – Living Well: Transforming First Nations Health in BC


This video outlines a brief history of the Tripartite First Nations Health Governance Structure in British Columbia, the agreements and documents that led to its creation, and the innovative work to transform health outcomes through service improvements in partnership with First Nations communities and leadership in the province.

First Nations Health Council Chair Report – Fall 2018


Since June 2010, it has been my honour to serve as Chair of the First Nations Health Council (FNHC). I am pleased to announce I was just re-elected for another term. BC Chiefs challenged the FNHC to negotiate a tripartite agreement that resulted in improved services, secured long-term funding, and improved health outcomes.

We met that challenge and in 2011 – BC Chiefs renewed our mandate and tasked us to provide leadership, oversee transformation of the health system, make progress on the social determinants of health, and to be advocates. In 2012, BC Chiefs gave us direction upon the structure of the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA). We worked with the FNHA CEO as members and appointed the FNHA board of directors and supported the building of the FNHA.

Six years ago, we began to transition away from Health Canada to the FNHA.  As we wrap up the work on Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) transfer, we will complete transition.  Our focus is now on transformation of the health system, making progress on the social determinants of health, and advocacy.

Our communities and our Nations now have the opportunity to redevelop their Nationhood and achieve a Nation-to-Nation relationship with Canada. BC Chiefs gave us clear direction with setting standards such as the 7-Directives. Directive #1 – Community-driven and Nation-based underpins our work. In transforming mental health, we are calling upon Chiefs, Leaders, and Caregivers to work together in ways that they may not have for a long time. Change is not easy, even when that change is good for us.  The FNHC will need to develop strategies and approaches to support this work.


Roadmap to Nation-to-Nation

At the Federal Deputy Ministers & FNHC table held June 29, 2018 in Ottawa, we discussed the challenges and the opportunities of achieving a Nation-to-Nation relationship. We had a lively, candid, and respectful dialogue. There was general agreement to the notion that we should develop jointly a Roadmap to Nation-to-Nation.

This roadmap would identify the challenges/barriers and the opportunities. The FNHC Partnership Working Group (PWG) is going to Ottawa in mid-October to meet senior officials. We will meet with Chiefs of Staff and officials from PMO, Treasury Board, and Finance.  We will begin to develop a roadmap.


FNHA – FNHC – FNHDA Joint Planning August 14-15-16

The August FNHA – FNHC – FNHDA joint planning session was productive and positive. Our discussions on the Mental Health Transformation work created an opportunity to air out fears and concerns. After airing out fears and questions – we began to see the possibilities. This process works well. On the 3rd day, we carried out ceremony to lift our spirits and take care of our family.


Tripartite MOU on Mental Health Transformation

Our Secretariat team and the FNHA teams have been working closely together to complete the implementation plan for the Tripartite Partnership to Improve Mental Health and Wellness Services and Achieve Progress on the Determinants of Health and Wellness MOU signed on July 26th. It is nearly finalized and ready to be shared publically.

This MOU on Mental Health Transformation calls for Nations to work together with all of their communities. Some Health Directors have expressed concerns that their Chiefs do not meet regularly and have not worked together for some time. Others expressed concern that their Chiefs are in conflict over various issues. We will need to find ways to encourage and support leaders coming together for this work.



FNHA Non-medical Cannabis Information for First Nations: www.fnha.ca/cannabis

In late June, the Government of Canada passed legislation to legalize cannabis. The Province of BC is working on legislation. At the last FNHC quarterly meeting, we heard presentations from Canada, the Province of BC and the FNHA on cannabis. We will begin a dialogue on this issue. We will also look at how we can begin to inform our Chiefs and Leaders during our upcoming regional engagements.

The FNHC recognizes the autonomy and self-determination inherent to First Nation communities and, specifically, the rights of communities to choose how to address cannabis in their territories. FNHC favours approaches that minimize the negative health impacts for individuals who voluntarily choose to use cannabis, and which minimize the promotion of cannabis use to children and youth. We approach this work with a spirit of shared responsibility – family members, community leaders, and health system partners all have a role to play.

The FNHA will be engaging with First Nations in BC through the fall regional caucus sessions. The FNHA has posted their health information on cannabis online at: www.fnha.ca/cannabis. For First Nations interested in providing feedback about cannabis and health, there is an online survey that can be taken on the FNHA website.


Implementation Committee

Health Canada (now Indigenous Services Canada), the BC Ministry of Health, FNHA and the FNHC established a governance committee to oversee the implementation of our 2011 BC Tripartite Framework Agreement on First Nations Health Governance. We are approaching the conclusion of this committee and are now considering the next iteration and work of this tripartite governance committee.

Our key and founding documents go back to 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2012.  On September 19, 2018, the Implementation Committee decided to work together to refresh our tripartite health plans and partnership accords. We want to build upon the progress made by each of the partners by setting out priorities for transformation, improving services, and strengthening and growing our partnerships with regional health authorities, Ministries and Departments.

As we begin to work together on renewing these key documents, we will be working with the FNHC and the FNHA to ensure that we leave no one behind.


Secwepemc Nation Stsmemelt MOU

Kukpi7 Wayne Christian invited me to attend the signing of this MOU in July during the AFN AGM held in Vancouver. I attended and witnessed the signing of an MOU on children and family services jurisdiction.  The Secwepemc Nation wants to build from the Splatsin model of jurisdiction. The Governments of Canada and BC have agreed to work with the Secwepemc Nation.

The First Nations Leadership Council with its partners on the Tripartite Working Group on Children and Family Services held a two-day meeting on September 26-27 in Richmond. The FNLC set the agenda that minimized presentations and maximized small group discussions. It was a productive format and there was a great dialogue. Kukpi7 Christian presented the Secwepemc Nation Stsmemelt MOU at this meeting. This presentation generated much excitement. The Wet’suwet’en Nation is working in partnership with the Secwepemc Nation on jurisdiction for children and families.


Matriarchs, Grandmothers and Aunties

During the First Nations Leadership Council meeting on children and families, I spoke with Chief Harvey McLeod. He shared with me a document – The Upper Nicola “Grandmothers Declaration.” It is a simple and yet powerful declaration.

Some time ago, our sister Gwen Philips talked about the role of Grandmothers. She raised the idea of the FNHC finding a way to support the Grandmothers to reclaim their role. We need to give some consideration to this idea and how we may take action to realize our Vision Statement – “Healthy, Self-Determining, Vibrant BC First Nations Children, Families, and Communities.”


Regional Partnership Accords

The Fraser Salish Partnership Accord and the other regional partnership documents are being evaluated as part of our 5-year evaluation. This review is an ideal time for the FNHC as one of one, three of three (regional), and fifteen of fifteen (provincial) members, to make certain that we are approaching our work in similar ways. Let us find the time to explore best practices from each of our regions and as we renew our regional partnership accords that each region is making progress on our shared priorities.



There is so much work to do. There are many organizations doing work. We need to find ways to coordinate our efforts. If we do not work together, we may prevent progress or create unnecessary conflict. We need to find time to develop a strategy on partnerships. We will need to develop a strategy and then bring it to our respective partnership tables with the Deputy Ministers.



Eight years passed quickly – while we have made significant progress there is much work to do. We should enjoy and celebrate the 5th birthday of the First Nations Health Authority. We should not party too long for there is much more work to do.

At times, it seems like the more we do, the more that we are expected to do. That is both the gift and the curse of leadership. By working together, we can and we will change the world in which we live.  By staying true to our mandate, staying in our lane – we will make progress to achieving our Vision Statement.  We will transform health and we will make progress on the Social Determinants of Health.

The FNHC looks forward to seeing you at our fall 2018 regional caucus sessions.


Grand Chief Doug Kelly
Chair, First Nations Health Council