April 10th, 2020
Letter to the Prime Minister urging national action on personal protective equipment
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
I write to you to underscore the desperate need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in our region at this time. Our region is one of the most vulnerable to COVID-19. First Nations and northern communities in our region are doing everything they can to keep people safe but I have heard repeatedly that they do not have access to the PPE they need. I am therefore urging you to do whatever it takes to ensure enough PPE is being produced at the national level to meet the needs of all, including the most vulnerable communities in our region.
People in our region are extremely concerned to hear of the growing number of COVID-19 on First Nations across Canada. Canada's Chief Medical Officer as well as many others have made it clear that First Nations and Indigenous communities are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. While we are aware of packages being sent out by Indigenous Services Canada, these are limited supplies and do not meet the needs of the communities. Over the last week I have heard from numerous First Nations who do not have access to the personal protective equipment they require. I have heard from healthcare workers who have been told not to use the PPE they have in stock because they don't have enough. I have heard from frontline community workers who are afraid to do their job because they don't have PPE. Let me be clear, First Nations in our region are taking remarkable steps including full lockdowns and extensive travel restrictions. They cannot do this alone - we must ensure they have adequate PPE as a first step.
I am also deeply concerned to hear about frontline healthcare workers across our region and province who are very concerned about the lack of personal protective equipment. Healthcare workers are working tirelessly on the frontline, putting themselves at risk to help people who have COVID-19 as well as doing what they can to stop the spread. These include healthcare workers in our hospitals, health centres, nursing homes and in homecare. If we as leaders truly wanted to thank frontline healthcare workers we would be kickstarting the production of desperately needed PPE so that they can do their job safely. Canada must act now.
We need national coordination and national mobilization of resources to produce the PPE that we need now. Canada is a wealthy country with the ability to produce what we need. What we require is political will. The patchwork quilt approach where provinces are pursuing their own plans on PPE is not working. Manitoba officials have already made it clear that there are shortages of N95 masks, gloves and gowns. We have heard similar messages from other jurisdictions. This is not acceptable. Ultimately national leadership, action and a nationalized approach to production is required to ensure we are producing the life saving equipment regions like ours desperately need.
Time is of the essence. The situation is urgent. There have been reports of the possible use of the Emergency Act because of the lack of resources getting to First Nations communities. What is clear is that the Federal Government must act immediately to get the equipment and resources so desperately needed to support northern and Indigenous communities and frontline workers.
We need to act now in order to save lives.
MP Niki Ashton (Churchill--Keewatinook Aski)