Manitoba Métis call for public inquiry for not being prioritized in COVID-19 vaccine campaign

Province says no evidence Metis aren’t experiencing increased and severe outcomes because of COVID-19.

While Indigenous Peoples across the country are getting their COVID-19 vaccinations, Métis and Inuit in Manitoba are not included in that rollout.

The Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) says they will call for a public inquiry into why they are not included.

The province of Manitoba is continuing its vaccine efforts, however, Métis and Inuit in the province are not part of the immediate priority list, which has MMF president David Chartrand concerned.

“Why does everybody else, Alberta, B.C. have it and you don’t and we’re the only one that doesn’t in the prairies,” Chartrand told APTN News.

Other provinces have made all Indigenous adults priorities in their respective vaccine rollouts, and Chartrand says he is going to find out why Manitoba is different.

“I’m going to demand an inquiry into how come the Metis were treated the way we were,” he said. “Everybody’s been pushing our premier of Manitoba, and Dr. Reimer and Dr. Roussin and they just won’t listen. And they take the position that there’s no data, there’s no information and everybody is saying there is.”

Chartrand continued saying he will also be sending a letter to the Manitoba premier as part of the inquiry.

“My message is going to be loud and clear that any documentation, information, e-mails, anything, literature of any sort shared back and forth between the government and the doctors cannot be destroyed, erased. That belongs to the property of the people.”

The province said there is not enough data to support the argument that Métis citizens should be prioritized for a vaccine.

“We haven’t seen any data showing any increased risks associated with Métis people and severe outcomes related to Covid,” said Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead for the vaccine implementation program. “But we want to continue to work with the MMF to identify specific barriers that they may be facing related to getting access to the vaccine and I know that the government is eager to continue to work with their leadership as well as we move forward.”

Reimer added while Métis citizens may not have adverse effects because of COVID-19, she acknowledged Métis people have a history of other serious outcomes.

“To date, you know we haven’t seen any evidence to show that they’re experiencing more severe outcomes related to covid compared to other groups but obviously they have a long history of experiencing a large variety of more severe outcomes generally including you know the effects of poverty, of racism, colonization, so we really want to continue to work with them to identify how we can best reach their citizens,” she said.

The province added vaccinations are underway for those aged 18 and up in 63 First Nation communities and 47 northern communities which include Métis populations, but not for the rest of the province.

“Manitoba announced recently that it has prioritized all northern affairs communities – which have significant Métis populations, to vaccinate all adults 18 and over as a priority,” a provincial spokesperson said.

Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) said they will be looking at information regarding all Métis citizens in Manitoba being able to access the vaccine.

“We are working on being able to obtain some more information about access to the vaccine for the Manitoba Métis Federation members,” said ISC Assistant Deputy Minister Valerie Gideon.

Currently, individuals aged 64 years of age and older and First Nations people aged 44 and older are eligible for the vaccine in Manitoba.

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