May 8th, 2020
Letter: The Federal Government must listen to Pukatawagan and all First Nations
Indigenous Services had sent medical tents that weren't requested by the community
Dear Minister Miller,
It is with grave concern I write this letter regarding the paternalistic and wrongheaded actions by your Government to send medical tents to Pukatawagan. Rather than listening to the community and respecting their request to retrofit their youth centre into a temporary quarantine space, your department decided to impose an outside solution that was unwanted, unneeded, dangerous, and simply wrong. I echo the comments made by Chief Bighetty condemning this paternalism.
To add insult to injury, you have refused to respond to requests for comment and your government is hiding behind national security as a justification. First Nations deserve to know how this unacceptable decision came to pass. They deserve to know what the Federal Government is doing to respond to the urgent demands they are making. Let me be clear, providing the wrong help isn't a national security issue but ensuring First Nations are supported in the face of a deadly pandemic is an issue of national importance.
Meanwhile, calls for a hospital in Cross Lake, a hospital in the Island Lake Region, and a ventilator centre in Berens River go ignored. These are communities that both before and during this pandemic have been calling for urgent action on healthcare but your Government has failed them.
The way to help First Nations is to listen to them and act on their priorities. As the leadership of Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, Pukatawagan, has said, upgrade the youth centre. Build the hospitals in Cross Lake, and the Island Lake Region, and the ventilator centre in Berens River. Rather than shipping in unwanted tents from an out of province company, listen to First Nations here in Manitoba about what they desperately need now.
And then do that.
MP Niki Ashton (Churchill--Keewatinook Aski)