President's Message - March 18, 2020

March 18, 2020

Presently, Canada and the world are in the midst of a crisis. Every day more and more COVID-19 cases are appearing across Canada. Just this week Canada's Chief Medical Officer recommended no gatherings of greater than 50 people. 

As spokesperson for the Métis National Council, last week I travelled to Ottawa for the First Ministers' Meeting (FMM) to discuss the matters important to the Metis Nation with the Prime Minister and Premiers from across the country. Though the FMM was postponed, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made himself available for a teleconference to discuss the concerns of the Metis Nation. 

At first, I was disappointed that Canada did not include the Metis in the funding available to Indigenous Peoples to combat COVID-19. However, during this teleconference I made Prime Minister Trudeau aware of our disapproval over not including us. Prime Minister Trudeau acknowledged there was a mistake when rolling out the funds and amended it to include the Metis. Now, I am satisfied that the government of Canada has committed to helping the Metis Nation combat the COVID-19 crisis. 

We are in a trying time, a time of uncertainty. While cases of COVID-19 have been in Canada for weeks, last week the first cases of COVID-19 in our province were announced. Schools are cancelled for three weeks commencing March 23, and city community centres and libraries closed their doors. Also this week, the Government of Canada announced restrictions on those who can enter the country, limiting access to Canadian citizens and permanent residents, their immediate families, and American citizens. We all need to do our part to mitigate this virus.

The Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) is taking this virus very seriously and closely monitoring the situation. The MMF began its COVID-19 response plan in December 2019 and has already cancelled a number of large regional and community consultation meetings to slow down the spread of the disease across the Metis Homeland.

Some Citizens may have already been exposed to the virus due to travel and meetings. The MMF will be flexible in its approach and will respond to the changing risks and the nature of the crisis. We will not sit by and wait for the federal or provincial governments to address our community's needs.

Studies have shown that the Manitoba Metis have among the highest levels of chronic disease and diabetes, and there are no clinics and support in our villages. This combination of issues renders our people highly vulnerable to the virus. 

Due to my recent travels, to protect MMF staff and their family and friends from the possible transmission of COVID-19, I have decided to work from home and practice self-isolation. The MMF is committed to ensuring the ongoing protection of Metis Citizens and all Manitobans. We have been developing a communication plan to distribute information to Metis Citizens to help them learn more about the virus and how to prevent the spread. 

The MMF is also looking at ways of keeping our essential services available, while ensuring we minimize opportunity for spreading the virus. The MMF called an emergency Cabinet meeting on March 17 to address these issues. 

Your Manitoba Metis Government is frequently updating our website with all the new statistics and information surrounding COVID-19. We want to ease the access to our Citizens and discourage you from looking at unaccredited sources on social media. 

The MMF is also pleased to roll out a new program to support Metis businesses and Citizens who have fallen victim to the COVID-19 crisis. We are encouraging all Metis economically affected by COVID-19 to register with the MMF and we will help you financially.

The MMF Housing Department will be making available three mobile health units for emergencies in villages or towns where families or family members need to self-isolate. N4 Metis Construction, a Manitoba Metis Government-owned company, is mobilizing two secure 48-bed camps as fully-accessible health facilities for those entering self-isolation and with special needs. 

We all need to be aware of the facts of this virus. COVID-19 is spread from person-to-person contact (within six feet) by coughing or sneezing. You can also get COVID-19 by touching something that has been infected by the virus, and then touching your face.

People over 65 and those with compromised immune systems (those with lung disease, heart disease, and diabetes) are at a higher risk of getting sick. It is important for the young people to take care of their Elders by practicing social distancing whenever possible. If you have cold or flu symptoms, please stay at home.

I urge all Citizens to stay calm, and practice social distancing and proper hygiene methods. If you have travelled outside of the country, please self-isolate for 14 days.

We should all be aware of these symptoms (which will appear within 2-14 days of transmission): a fever, cough, and shortness of breath. You can also carry the virus without showing any symptoms. 

My friends, if you have any symptoms, please call Health Links at 1-888-315-9257 or Greener Life Medical at 1-833-851-6431 or 1-647-629-0321. Health Links can help you find a COVID-19 testing station nearest to you.

We can protect ourselves by practicing diligent handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and using hand sanitizer with at least 60 per cent alcohol if soap and water are not available.

Please take extra care of yourselves. Let's look out for our neighbours. I am thinking of everyone at home while we wait out this pandemic, and everyone who may be home sick and worried about their symptoms. We will all do our part to ensure our own health and well-being, as well as those of our friends, families, and communities.

I would like to thank MMF Minister of Health Frances Chartrand and MMF Minister of Housing Will Goodon, as well as their staff who have been working diligently to roll out various programs to ensure the safety of our people and staff. I also want to thank all MMF ministers, directors, and staff for meeting regularly to discuss the risks of the COVID-19 virus and ensuring the health of our Citizens and government is not compromised. 


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