Southern Chiefs call on Manitoba government to step up efforts, free up funds for COVID

·2 min read

The Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) is calling on the Manitoba government to step up its efforts and free up critically needed funds to keep Manitobans safe during the pandemic.

“Let me be very clear, our lives are literally on the line,” said SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels in a press release.

“It is obvious at the provincial level that the pandemic response is beyond inadequate, and now our critical care resources are on the verge of collapse.”

As of Monday, there have been a total of 679 active COVID-19 cases among First Nations on-reserve and off-reserve in Manitoba according to the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba.

Data has shown that 20% of people hospitalized in the province are Indigenous.

SCO’s urgent appeal to the province follows an open letter sent to the Premier Brian Pallister from over 200 doctors noting that the public health system in the province is overwhelmed.

The letter states the concerns of Manitoba’s health care workers as well as solutions the province can take during this COVID-19 crisis.

“The provincial government had six months to prepare for this second wave of the virus,” said Daniels.

“Instead of being adequately prepared, we are now bearing witness to the tragic loss of life and system collapse after years of so-called reorganization and red tape reduction.”

It is clear that throughout the weeks that the COVID-19 pandemic has spiraled out of control, with a test positivity rate of 8.9%.

“If the province’s system is on the verge of collapse, imagine what that could mean for First Nation’s health care resources,” said Daniels.

“Thanks to centuries of colonization, we have been dealing with an infrastructure backlog for generations. Add to that the challenges of a global pandemic, and you have a recipe for disaster.”

On Oct. 30, the federal government announced that they will be adding $200 million in funding to support Indigenous people across Canada.

Approximately $60 million from the funding would be used to make community buildings safer with renovations, better cleaning and upgraded ventilation for First Nation communities.

The SCO is also calling on the federal government to fast track the release of the $200 million. The organization plans to immediate use to money to help build critical infrastructure such as badly needed isolation units as well as upgrades for health, social, and educational facilities.

“While we are pleased with the additional funds announced by the federal government last week, we need to be able to access resources immediately to have a real chance at preventing the further spread of COVID-19 and related deaths,” said Daniels.

“The situation is dire, and so we are demanding better for the people we serve.”

Nicole Wong is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Nicole Wong, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun