For immediate release
December 7, 2020
Treaty Five Territory, Thompson, MB – Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc. is issuing this statement to provide updates on the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact in Northern Manitoba.
“Similar to the rest of the Province of Manitoba, we are very concerned to see the continuing high numbers of positive COVID-19 cases both within our region and across the province,” said Grand Chief Garrison Settee. “At the top of our list of concerns is the growing outbreak of COVID-19 in the remote community of Shamattawa. Yesterday there were 195 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the First Nation.”
MKO represents and advocates on behalf of Northern First Nations in Manitoba. The First Nations have a wide range of concerns that need to be addressed now and in the future. A major concern is the lack of housing in First Nations, which leads to overcrowded homes in many instances. The lack of housing means people are not able to easily follow public health guidelines around self-isolation.
“In some communities, we have heard of people covering bedroom doors with plastic to create a space where someone can self-isolate away from the rest of their loved ones. Many homes only have one bathroom so unfortunately, in some cases people are using pails within their rooms so they can keep themselves separated from others in the homes. This is extremely disappointing and impacts people’s overall dignity and safety. We are aware there is a large demand for alternative isolation accommodations and there is a need to work to continue to create more spaces for isolation,” shared Grand Chief Settee.
Housing is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately as the remote communities will soon have their winter ice roads in place. There is a short window of time where building supplies can be shipped to the communities using the ice roads.
“We are urging decision makers at Indigenous Services Canada and the Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation to do whatever they can to address the shortage of housing in our Northern First Nations,” stated Grand Chief Settee.
Leaders are also needing to focus on preparing for the upcoming roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine for First Nations people in Manitoba.
“First Nations people face ongoing issues related to poverty that absolutely impact our health status,” said Grand Chief Settee. “It is for these reasons that First Nations people must be prioritized when the provincial and federal governments are determining who will receive the vaccine on a priority basis. We are urging both the province and feds to include us and create a seat for First Nations leadership and expertise at the tables they have created for developing vaccine roll out plans. Unfortunately, First Nations leadership in Northern Manitoba have not been included in these discussions to date. It is imperative that all levels of government work together and have ongoing and clear communication so we can mitigate the impact of this deadly virus on First Nations people living in Northern Manitoba.”
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Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO) is a non-profit, political advocacy organization that has represented 26 First Nation communities in Manitoba’s North since 1981. The MKO represents more than 72,000 First Nations people.