Canada's NDP


February 1st, 2021

Letter to Dr. Roussin - The North Needs Sub Regional Approach and Mental Health Supports

Dr. Roussin,

We would like to first of all commend you and your staff for the work you have been doing to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic in Manitoba. We would also like to acknowledge the important announcement today that makes shopping of non-essential items possible for the time being across our region.

Right from the start, we have been concerned about the potential impacts of the pandemic in northern and Indigenous communities in northern Manitoba. Many First Nations communities from the start took very strong measures to limit the spread of the virus, measures that often exceeded the provincial restrictions.

In recent weeks and months, there has been a further spread of the virus in the North. We would like to indicate our support for many of the measures that have been put in place to restrict its spread.

We would like to identify one specific area that we believe needs to be given much greater priority, that is in terms of mental health. This past week, across Canada, we recognized a day to talk about mental health. We want to stress just how much the pandemic has impacted the mental health of individuals and communities in northern Manitoba. We need to do more than talk about mental health, we need to provide the resources that our healthcare system in our communities need to deal with the many many impacts that COVID-19 is having on mental health.

We would also urge you to consider a sub regional approach to northern Manitoba on issues related to both the current restrictions and the future opening up of our communities.

The Pas/OCN, for example, is very much a sub region. At one time, there were two different health authorities in the North, one based in Thompson and the other serving The Pas and Flin Flon. The communities have little connection with Thompson both in terms of transportation and trade. It is a trading area for surrounding communities. It is also a region that prides itself on the cooperation between the town of The Pas/OCN and the surrounding RM of Kelsey.

The previous retail restrictions meant disparities in our region. The unintended aspect meant that many businesses in The Pas were facing significant hardship as people traveled to other communities in Manitoba and even Saskatchewan to access retail stores. This had also become an issue for other communities, including Flin Flon and Thompson, in our region. While these restrictions have been lifted for now, the need for a sub regional approach is key going forward.

The public health approach to northern Manitoba has overall been very positive. We are asking that you consider making a major commitment in terms of mental health as well as moving to a sub regional approach in northern Manitoba.

Yours sincerely,

Niki Ashton, MP
Churchill—Keewatinook Aski

Amanda Lathlin, MLA
The Pas—Kameesak