For immediate release
March 31, 2020

Treaty Five Territory, Thompson, MB Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO) is issuing this media release to provide an update on issues that are being addressed in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic for First Nations in Northern Manitoba.

MKO has grouped the issues into three main themes: protecting First Nations; infrastructure; as well as funding and supplies. The issues are numerous. This media release focuses on issues connected to the theme of “protecting First Nations.” MKO will also issue detailed updates on the funding/supplies and infrastructure issues in the coming days.

Many MKO First Nations are implementing stringent measures in an attempt to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus to Northern Manitoba.

“First Nations leaders are strong, creative, and resilient. In my role as Grand Chief of MKO, I am meeting with the Chiefs regularly and am working diligently during these unprecedented times to advocate with them at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels,” shared Grand Chief Garrison Settee. “I am urging leaders at all levels to work cooperatively with MKO to help lessen the spread of the COVID-19 virus to Northern Manitoba.”

Many First Nations have implemented check stops and have limited travel in and out of their communities. MKO has reached out to provincial and federal partners with a call for the RCMP and Canadian Armed Forces to help set up and monitor the check stops 24 hours a day. MKO is also calling for the province to support check stops on highways 6 and 10 as well as provincial road 483.

MKO First Nations have called on Manitoba Hydro for the closure of the Keeyask construction site; there is persistent concern that the 600+ workers currently on site will bring COVID-19 to nearby First Nations. MKO has also called for the closure of Manitoba Liquor Marts or at least for a limit on how much alcohol can be purchased in the Northern liquor marts in Thompson and Lynn Lake to reduce the sale of liquor by bootleggers in Northern First Nations.

MKO is pushing for federal support to create spaces in each First Nation to provide testing for the COVID-19 virus well away from nursing stations—this request is being made in the hopes of protecting First Nations people accessing nursing stations from being exposed to the virus.

MKO continues to share the demand that First Nations are requesting access to ventilators to prepare for more serious cases of COVID-19. MKO has also requested that Norway House Cree Nation receive eight dialysis machines and more nurses to run them—an increase in dialysis machines will help to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and will reduce the impact of First Nations kidney patients having to travel to urban centres.

“MKO advocates on behalf of 26 communities and there are a lot of concerns that we need addressed to ensure we are ready for the arrival of COVID-19,” said Grand Chief Settee. “I will continue to elevate the concerns of our First Nations leaders and will continue to make myself available to all MKO leadership. The team at MKO is doing our utmost to ensure our communities are fully prepared to handle any COVID-19 cases in Northern Manitoba.”

MKO is working to provide up-to-date information on COVID-19 on our social media accounts and on a new webpage created for this purpose.


WATCH: Grand Chief Settee speaks about the need to close the Keeyask construction site in Northern Manitoba: