Covid reaction first order of business for Métis Nation -Saskatchewan
- John Lagimodiere | June 13, 2020
The Provincial Métis Council of the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan didn’t waste any time getting busy as Saskatchewan entered Phase 3 of the pandemic return to work. This stage allows up to 30 people to meet outside, so the PMC took over the Back to Batoche site for its first meeting in months.
The main topic of conversation was the response to the Covid pandemic. “We are following the Province in regards to safety of our people. Today I am very thankful that we could meet and do some of the business that we need to do, but there is still more to do,” said MN-S President Glen McCallum on getting to work and dealing with the pandemic.
“We came home on March the 12th and put up a task force right off the bat. We heard from the federal government that we were getting dollars so we met as a PMC on the 14th on a conference call. Some of the northern communities were reacting very quickly in regards to monitoring points as we developed our plan.”
McCallum attributes the success of stopping the spread of Covid to timing and cooperation.
“Because of the quick action that we took, we didn’t have that many issues in the regions in regard to PPE, access to food or isolation units that we took up north,” he said.
“The other good thing that came out of the pandemic was the working partnership with the First Nations people. The Meadow Lake Tribal Council and the northwest, we get along really well. The federal government has provided $2.3 million to work with First Nations and Métis to be able to deliver services to our people in northern Saskatchewan. We are meeting this week with the Chiefs and northern Métis leaders from Northern Region 2 to review that agreement.”
Marg Friesen, Regional Representative for Eastern Region 3 and the Minister of Health and Mental Health and Addictions has been at the forefront of the crisis and she agrees that cooperation has helped with the reaction. “Every Region has mobilized other resources and worked in collaboration with their neighbouring partners such as First Nation communities and the supports that are in place in each community,” said Friesen who has twenty years experience in the disability sector. “There are communities that don’t have the supports like a medical facility. We have been working with the Saskatchewan Health Authority to ensure that there is no test that has not gone unnoticed or if people have requested to be tested for some reason or another that they get the test they need to ensure the safety of their family members.”
Even with the strong reaction, Minister Friesen believes they can do better. “We have been very effective on the front lines but what we can do better is communicate with the Province of Saskatchewan to ensure we are putting those supports in place for Métis across the province and effectively working as a unit to ensure that those safety measures are in place for all citizens and not leave anyone behind,” added Friesen.
She also believes we have to be very careful still. “We are not out of the woods yet. We are being very cautious as a Nation,” she said. “We are respecting the fact that Saskatchewan wants to reopen and inject that economy and getting people back to work and back to the norm. But this is our new normal now. We respect that but we have a vulnerable population and a large number of seniors and elders in our community and we have to ensure their safety as well. The support of all the regions and our executive has been helpful to ensure we have been getting the supports to the people that need it most.”
President McCallum agrees better relations with the Province will go a long way. “From a government perspective we have developed a very good relationship with the Federal government. Everything fell into place. Cash management and being accountable and responsible. To be able to have government believe we have the structure to be able to do it,” said McCallum.
“With the provincial government, yes, we have signed MOUs regarding education, health and harvesting. We still have to nurture those along. I can understand to a certain degree the situation that we have been in as Métis, but that shouldn’t take away from the structure that we’ve built and the true partnership that the province should have with the Métis Nation.”
President McCallum is cautiously optimistic about the future. It is the relationships built in this time that will carry us all further. “It is important that we (First Nations and Métis) have to realize we have to speak with one voice. And that one voice is so crucial as we get into other issues. The relationship shouldn’t stop here because of Covid. That relationship and partnership should continue,” stressed McCallum. “I look forward to it. Once we get into jurisdictional issues and land claims, we need them at the table. Too bad it is Covid that brought us together, but it went well as to what came out of it. Relationship. Partnership building. Nurturing those along and it is working well.”