The Saskatchewan NDP is calling on the Saskatchewan government to step up with urgent supports and protections for First Nations and Métis people who are at significant risk from the spread of COVID-19.
“First Nations and Métis leaders are doing all they can to prepare their communities for the arrival of COVID-19, but the response from the province so far has been slow and limited,” said NDP Leader and First Nations and Métis Relations Critic Ryan Meili. “We know these communities are at higher risk, with crowded housing, elevated levels of poverty and higher rates of illness.”
To date, First Nations and Métis leadership have not been invited to be meaningfully involved with pandemic planning and response. Health care facilities in First Nations communities are having a hard time accessing Personal Protective Equipment. Capacity for testing and contact tracing is limited in Northern areas and on reserve.
“A pandemic doesn’t respect jurisdictional boundaries,” said Meili. “We need to see a concentrated effort from the province to make sure all Saskatchewan communities are protected.”
The NDP called on the province to step up with commitments to:
- Ensure safe housing for on- and off-reserve populations, including capacity for self-isolation;
- Address acute food security concerns in rural and remote areas of the province as supply chains are interrupted and prices rise;
- Increase testing and contact tracing throughout the north, on reserve across Saskatchewan and in urban areas with high First Nations and Métis populations;
- Ensure protections for health care workers, including PPE resources, in already challenging work situations;
- Increase communication with and involvement of First Nations and Métis leaders in decision-making.
“For the health of the entire province, we need to act quickly,” said Doyle Vermette, Critic for Northern Saskatchewan and Associate Critic for First Nations and Métis Relations. “To get this right, the province needs to step up and involve First Nations and Métis communities in a meaningful way.”