Four Cree Nations are asking the federal government to step in after they say concerns surrounding a COVID-19 outbreak at the Keeyask Generating Station construction site are not being taken seriously by Manitoba Hydro and the province.
“The Chiefs demands are not being met and they are partners with Manitoba Hydro. They are not treated as partners,” said Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Garrison Settee during a livestream media conference Wednesday.
“Today we’re coming to the Prime Minister and asking him to intervene to make sure this situation is under control.”
The first case of COVID-19 found at the project site was reported on Oct. 25. The crown corporation says there are now 23 confirmed cases and they are waiting on additional testing from eight workers.
There are currently 55 workers isolating in special dorm rooms on site.
Tataskweyak and Fox Lake Cree Nations and War Lake and York Factory First Nations are partners on the project. They have been calling for a temporary shut down in order to contain the outbreak.
York Factory Chief Leroy Constant says their concerns have, “fallen on deaf ears.”
“I’m going to call Keeyask and super spreader. Right now they haven’t contained it. The leadership is frustrated beyond means,” he told reporters.
The project employs approximately 200 members from the four communities.
Leadership worries the virus could spread.
Fox Lake Chief Morris Beardy says there is a breakdown in information from Hydro and the Northern Health Authority making it difficult to determine who has tested positive or whether workers have left the construction site.
“How are we supposed to protect our members, our Elders and people that we love…we need this information in a timely manner,” said Beardy.
Leadership would like to see an updated pandemic plan from Hydro.
They say despite speaking with Hydro officials three times since the outbreak conversations have stalled.
“The virus is in their court now…right now it’s Manitoba Hydro and the province that need to step up and do their due diligence,” said Beardy.
Minister of Crown Services Jeff Wharton said Manitoba Hydro has, adapted action as needed,” in a statement to APTN News.
The province moved the site to a critical level or code red on Tuesday.
Manitoba Hydro says it’s reduced its workforce and have tested all workers on site. They have also closed the dining hall and the camp’s gym.
In Ottawa, Churchill-Keewatinook Aski MP Niki Aston brought up the issue at the House of Commons on Wednesday saying, “people are scared.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded by saying his government is monitoring the situation closely expects Manitoba Hydro to follow public health advice.