Everyone has responsibilities
- John Lagimodiere | March 06, 2021
If we are anything, we are resilient. Hoo boy this last year has been a test. Quarantine. Sickness. And lots of our family members suffering from mental and physical health issues because of it. Especially our seniors.
Had a friend relate to me his experience holding his dad’s hand in hospital for 21 hours as he waited for COVID to take him. At the same time, he saw a person he swore was his sister, get pushed by the door on a gurney. He was right. The nurses eventually confirmed it was his sibling and he got the staff to let her know he was there with their father.
His family had been through the COVID cycle. He escaped. There is a sister that barely had symptoms, a sister who had to be hospitalized and a mother who was quite sick, but recovered. And a father that they lost. And this family took the Covid rules and restrictions very seriously and still have no definite knowledge of how the family was exposed to the virus. And they cannot have a wake and funeral to come together and grieve.
And it turns out wakes and funerals have been the source of many of the outbreaks in our communities. The last two months have been challenging to say the least. Some communities have lost so many Elders and veterans. Sports heroes have been lost. Sons. Daughters. It has been hard.
Awareness and supports for our families have never been more important. The help and leadership of our Indigenous governments have been welcome. Individual First Nations are investing the federal government monies that have flowed at an unprecedented level into their communities. Chief Bobby Cameron and the executive at the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations have all been role models regarding social distancing and the wearing of masks.
The FSIN leaders are also championing vaccines. You can see the joy on social media when our Elders have received their vaccines. We need to keep them safe. To help promote the vaccines, the Federation has launched an awareness campaign on vaccines. The ads are in First Nation languages found in Saskatchewan. It’s a smart supporting strategy in this fast-moving pandemic response.
The Métis Nation-Saskatchewan is also seeing resources and programs flow like never before. Métis citizens are now able to access Métis specific medical travel and support programs, benefits once unthinkable in the Métis community.
Thankfully, our leaders and some awesome lawyers have fought court cases over the years and these new Métis health programs can be traced back to the Manitoba Métis land claim decision from 2013 and the Daniels Decision from 2016. The Daniels decision welcomed the Métis into Section 91.24 of the Constitution under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government. It made us Indians, but importantly clarified the federal responsibility to Métis people.
The Reconciliation Framework the current executive negotiated with the government lays out the process. It is federal dollars powering these programs. And the First Nations ones as well. Not provincial. That is why it is happening. I guess, sometimes it takes a pandemic to get things really rolling.
And at the front end of all this are our health care workers. The constant threat of exposure and the massive pressure on the system are making some reconsider their career choices. Both nurses in our cover story, Joanne Natomagan from Pinehouse and Justina Kilfoyl of La Loche say they have never been this exhausted in their careers. And they are not unique. Ask any doctor, care aide, food services staff or maintenance and cleaning person how they are doing. No rest for them. But they continue to show up for shifts and take on the emotional burdens of their patients and the patients’ families. Then, at home, they cry.
We must hold those workers up and do the best we can to support them. The FSIN and First Nation leaders, the MN-S and Local Presidents are giving us the supports. Our job is to do everything we can to control this pandemic and our future and ease the burden on our health care system and those so very important caregivers. Wear a mask. Stay home. Wash your hands. Get vaccinated when you can. Keep praying and hug the ones you can, as much as you can.