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This article was published 1/5/2020 (299 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
In a public address to his people Thursday, Manitoba Metis Federation president David Chartrand called out Premier Brian Pallister for his lack of strategy and failure to communicate adequately about plans to reopen the province.
Pallister announced this week that on Monday some services and businesses can reopen, such as non-urgent surgery and diagnostic procedures, therapeutic and medical services, retail businesses, restaurants (including patio and walk-up services), hair salons, museums, galleries and libraries, seasonal day camps and outdoor recreation and campgrounds.
"It would be great if the premier would work with others," Chartrand said.
"I don’t want to be disrespectful to him, but it’s important. We have many businesses in these fields, and we want to make sure they are within the framework of the rules that will apply with them opening, so that we can assist them in the process … ensuring they are protecting their customers and themselves."
At a media briefing the same afternoon as Chartrand’s comments, Tom Wong, chief medical officer of public health with Indigenous Services Canada, spoke about reopening.
"All levels of government, including ours, are engaging Indigenous communities as each province, each territory, develop reopening plans. For us, at Indigenous Services Canada, our region is particularly vigilant working with Indigenous communities to make sure that any type of reopening of economy, including work sectors, it’s imperative that the risk of introduction of the virus to Indigenous communities is minimized," Wong said.
"If we don’t shut the door on the virus, the virus runs very fast. It can spread and cause an outbreak."
Wong said recovery is on everyone’s mind, but the message remains that people need to practise safe COVID practices, such as maintaining physical distancing, avoiding crowds and gatherings, even after the opening of the economy.
Keep washing hands, Wong said.
Chartrand said, referring to a further phase of the province reopening in early June, "we’re all guessing."
"We’re all guessing as Manitobans and I’m guessing as a Métis leader for my people that he’s going to come up with some strategy," he said.
"But obviously he’s not going to be contacting or having dialogue with us, which we could then initiate that strategy back at home."
Saying that’s an unfortunate reality in the province, Chartrand sought to assure Métis business owners that the federation would be available for assistance in understanding all the applicable rules.
Wong said, "Every single measure needs to be in place."
"That involves working with many, many different partners, in addition to working with the community, including regulatory bodies, including provinces, territories."
In Canada, there are 129 cases of COVID at First Nations — 33 in British Columbia, 20 in Alberta, 14 in Saskatchewan, 32 in Ontario and 30 in Quebec. Specific First Nations were not disclosed for privacy reasons.
Wong said the bottom line is "we have to be very cautious and very vigilant so that the virus doesn’t rebound."
The Dakota Ojibway Tribal Council is working on plans for a second wave of viral outbreak. Indigenous Services Canada did not reply by deadline on questions about a second wave as Manitoba prepares to reopen.
» Michele LeTourneau covers Indigenous matters for The Brandon Sun under the Local Journalism Initiative, a federally funded program that supports the creation of original civic journalism.