Queue questions: Chief of Saskatoon Tribal Council wants to know where jails fit into vaccination plan

·2 min read

A prominent First Nations leader in Saskatoon says it's time to talk about where people behind bars fit into the province's COVID-19 vaccination plan.

Mark Arcand is chief of the Saskatoon Tribal Council. It provides a range of services inside and outside the Saskatoon Correctional Centre, the provincial jail with the highest number of active COVID cases — 78 as of Dec. 18. The majority of people in the jail are First Nations.

"It has to be a high priority and the government has to realize that because they need a quality of life, too," Arcand said in an interview.

"Eventually, they're going to be back in our in our streets and our First Nations communities and our city of Saskatoon, wherever they come from."

The latest release on the matter from the province, dated Dec. 20, offers broad strokes of the vaccination plan.

"The first part of Phase 1 of the delivery plan will begin the week of Dec. 21 with health care workers in Saskatoon. Phase 1 of the delivery plan includes priority/at-risk populations," it said.

Arcand said how and when jail populations will get vaccinated must be sorted out.

"They can't just go to an area and say, 'I'm here to be vaccinated.' They can't leave the facility," he said.

Dan Zakreski/CBC
Dan Zakreski/CBC

Arcand said he's personally connected with people inside the Saskatoon jail, including someone who contracted COVID-19 while there on remand, and he's dismayed by what he's heard.

"The health authority guidelines are for five people in a household," he said.

"In Saskatoon [Correctional] there are some dorms that have 35 people in one setting. So how is that alleviating the transmission of COVID?"

Arcand said the government should step up its fight to slow transmission in the jail by increasing the frequency of fogging.

In April, cleaners began fogging parts of the inside of the centre with an industrial disinfectant to try to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The disinfectant compound is branded Vital Oxide and is benign enough to humans that it can be applied without any personal protective gear.

"I believe that they're not doing the proper measures of continuous fogging," he said, adding that it should happen more than weekly.

"I would say there should be fogging every day, [or] every second day, for the measures to increase the safety of the individuals."