Southern Chiefs Organization declares state of emergency over COVID-19

The Southern Chiefs Organization (SCO) has declared a state of emergency amid concerns surrounding COVID-19.

Grand Chief Jerry Daniels says medical supplies such as gloves and masks sent to communities are expected to arrive soon, but he feels the pace needs to be quickened. The SCO represents 34 First Nations in southern Manitoba and Daniels wants to act now before it becomes too late.

“We just don’t know how bad it is. If we look at what we’re seeing around the world, especially in Italy, we see a G7 country that wasn’t prepared and we do not want to see the same thing in Canada. And I know that we’ve been acting slightly earlier, but we don’t know if that’s enough and have we contained it enough. So those are questions and we’d rather be over precautious than to say we didn’t do enough when the moment came.”

The SCO press release stated that “Many First Nation peoples have poorer health outcomes due to complex factors, including a two-tiered health care system. As a result, the lifespans of status First Nation peoples in Manitoba are on average 11-years less than other Manitobans.” The release also highlighted a lack of health care staff as a significant issue.

On March 11, the World Health Oganization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. APTN News is reporting from across the country on the viral outbreak and how it is impacting Indigenous communities. For more information click here: COVID-19

Three provinces have also called a state of emergency: Prince Edward Island, Ontario, and Alberta.

The chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin says keeping all First Nations communities informed is a top priority for the government.

“Right at the beginning of enacting our incident management structure we’ve had Indigenous and First Nations membership on our incident management structure. I’ve met regularly with many First Nation organization and we’ve directed the health regions to be in contact with the First Nations within their health region to ensure a unified response.”

Daniels hopes this emergency declaration will ensure the health and well-being of First Nation communities are protected.

“We just want to see our people taken care of, First Nations people are at the margins of society, 11 years less than the average Canadian, we know the underlining issues and the history and so we want to make sure that  every precaution is being taken when it comes to health and well being of our people.”

There are no reported cases of COVID-19 so far in Manitoba First Nations communities.

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