Originally signed in 2012, the Partnership Accord between seven interior First Nations and Interior Health (IH) will extend through 2024.

“The Partnership Accord is recognition that the seven indigenous nations [the Dãkelh Dené, Secwepemc, Tsilhqot’in, St’at’imc, Ktunaxa, and Syilx] of the interior region are recognized as Nations,” says Ktunaxa Nation Citizen and Governance Representative to the First Nation Health Council Gwen Phillips who signed the accord on June 5 in Kelowna.

Phillips says the renewal includes the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“The Interior Health authority, as a provincial government agency, has given the recognition to the seven nations and we work following a community-driven nation-based model to ensure all citizens are taken care of regardless of where they reside.”

She says its important that health care is provided equally while at the same time respecting the customs and culture of first nations communities that may differ from western healing methods.

IH Board Chair Doug Cochrane said in the official media release that it’s a ‘commitment to equitable access to quality and culturally safe care that meets the needs of patients and families’.

Phillips provides further detail about safe spaces for families.

“When there is someone from our family that is sick, or they require some support, we need to have people around that person all the time, and many people around them. And we may need to be praying differently than some of the Neo-Christian cultures might need to be doing etc.”

She adds that healing with the whole family is paramount and that isolating family members such as children may interrupt traditional healing methods that have been established for millennia.

The Partnership Accord’s intent is to recognize and respect the unique cultures of the 54 indigenous bands in the Interior Health region, according to Phillips.