Chief Allan Adam joins me on #RealTalkRJ Wednesday at 9:20am.
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INDIGENOUS GROUPS OF THE REGIONAL MUNICIPALITY OF WOOD BUFFALO (RMWB) ACCUSE PREMIER KENNEY OF PRIORITIZING PROFITS OVER LIVES WITH HIS INCOMPETENT RESPONSE TO COVID-19 Press Release by RMWB, April 27, 2021
(FORT MCMURRAY, AB – April 26, 2021) – The eleven First Nation and Métis Nations of the RMWB are calling upon the province of Alberta to immediately change their approach to COVID-19.
“For almost thirteen months we have followed the leadership of Jason Kenney, and where has it gotten us?” asks Chief Adam. “To last place in the country when it comes to the rate of spread. More than double the worst outbreak in Ontario and tied, if you can believe it, with Delhi, India. Whatever Alberta has been doing so far has been a failure,” states Adam.
The eleven RMWB Indigenous communities are calling for a new approach in the wake of record-setting outbreaks in the region, which recently claimed the life of a respected Métis elder who was denied treatment at Northern Lights Regional Health Centre twice in the week before he died.
“These losses are too great to bear, and something has to be done,” said President Kendrick Cardinal of the Fort Chipewyan Métis. “We cannot stand by and continue to watch these numbers surge, we must challenge the Provincial government to address our concerns now. We refuse to bury another Indigenous member of our communities.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Indigenous communities of the RMWB have had to take measures into their own hands by setting up checkpoints or implementing curfews in order to protect their communities. The restrictions that the province has enacted are ineffective and show in rapidly growing case counts.
“We are at a crossroads as a society, if we look to our Indigenous communities in Wood Buffalo, we have done extensive work to protect our people. All levels of government need to take a hard look at our region and our communities as an example of best practices. Our biggest barrier today is the roll-out of the vaccines to the greater population and all age groups, while implementing temporary restrictions in the region until we can get our case numbers to a manageable point,” said Ron Quintal, President of the McKay Métis Nation.
“We have a Premier who is prioritizing profits over lives by continuing to allow infected workers to come to our region from all over the country to keep oil flowing,” said Chief Adam. “If this were any other region, the numbers would dictate that we would be shut down. If it were any other industry, the province would have put in increased regulations just like they did with the meat packers, or schools, or the NHL. But no, Premier Kenney is willing to bet the lives of your family and mine, all so the oil fat cats can continue to get big dividend payments.”
The Premier’s nonchalant attitude to illness and death is mirrored in the comments of local UCP MLA Tany Yao, who rose in the legislature on April 22, 2021, to say that “we should accept that death happens, and that people have to take self-responsibility.”
When elected officials believe this is appropriate commentary during a regional crisis, it becomes clear that they no longer can be entrusted to make the very life-and-death decisions that are required to protect the health and safety of the Indigenous people of the region.
“We have had over a year to prepare for this, and right from the start the Indigenous communities have been warning of precisely this scenario,” said Chief Adam. “The Province’s plan has failed pure and simple. What’s worse is Premier Kenney has denied that he is a failure and has gone as far as to blame Indigenous people for the increased spread in the RMWB at an April 26th press conference.”
Says Adam: “That is a lie, plain and simple. If that were true, you would have massive outbreaks in the rural hamlets and smooth sailing in the urban area. Look at the numbers, that’s just not the case. And the reason for that is because the Indigenous communities took measures into our own hands to protect our people. Kenney could have done the same, but even after a year, has chosen not to. And who does that hurt? The residents of the RMWB.”
In the desperate hope that Premier Kenney will listen to reason, the Indigenous communities of the RMWB have forwarded a letter including these recommendations and requests:
- Declare a stay-at-home order, with essential movement outside the home only.
- Establish isolation units in local hotels for people to be able to quarantine in safety and comfort.
- Establish a mass vaccination program for everyone over 18 to stop the spread.
- Establish and expand rapid testing sites at all points of entry to the community to help locate the virus and prevent entry into the community.
- Establish and staff a field hospital to deal with the shortage of beds and health care workers.
- Restrict business to essential services only. No more patios – pick-up and delivery only.
- Implement a community-wide curfew.
- Erect checkpoints at the entrance to all hamlets to restrict entry to residents and essential services only, including flights to Fort Chipewyan.
- Move immediately to online learning only for Northland School Division schools in the region.
- Enforce mask and social gathering bylaws and ticket violators.
Says Adam: “These are all actions that have been implemented in jurisdictions that have fared better than we have, and they are proven effective. Maybe Kenney could try some of these out for a change. Literally, anything would be better than what he has been doing. Our region is losing the battle with COVID-19, and we cannot accept the lack of meaningful action and response any longer.”
FOR MORE INFO PLEASE CONTACT
Chief Allan Adam
President, Athabasca Tribal Council
Chief, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
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Indigenous leaders near Fort McMurray call for strict COVID-19 measures from Alberta government by James Keller, April 27, 2021, The Globe and Mail
Indigenous leaders in the Fort McMurry region are calling on the Alberta government to impose strict public-health measures as skyrocketing COVID-19 infections threaten their remote communities and the area’s small hospital.
The 11 First Nations and Métis settlements in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo issued a statement on Tuesday that accused the provincial government of failing to take the COVID-19 situation seriously and wrongly blaming Indigenous people for worsening infection numbers.
A day earlier, the regional government declared a state of emergency and asked the Alberta government to prioritize the region for vaccines, similar to strategies in other provinces that have focused vaccines on hot spot areas. The province has rejected that suggestion. Alberta has the highest rate of active cases of COVID-19 in the country, and Fort McMurray region has the highest rate of active infections in the province.
Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation said the province has not been taking the current spike in COVID-19 infections seriously and that’s putting his community at risk.
“If Fort Chip was to have an outbreak of COVID-19 right now, and if people were to need hospital beds, we would have nothing because the hospital beds here in Fort McMurray are full,” he said.
The Chief said the regional hospital’s small intensive-care unit is full and he’s not confident that people in his community, which he said currently has no active COVID-19 cases, would be able to get care if they needed it.
The Indigenous leaders’ statement called on the provincial government to put in a stay-at-home order in the regional municipality; impose a curfew; restrict businesses to essential services; close restaurant patios, which remain open; establish isolation units at local hotels; and increase testing capacity.
A day earlier, Premier Jason Kenney pointed to low vaccine uptake in the Fort McMurray region and vaccine hesitancy among Indigenous people as he explained the high infection numbers.
The vaccination rate in Fort McMurray, the urban centre of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, is 13.9 per cent. In the rest of the district, 17.2 per cent of people have received at least one dose.
Mr. Kenney suggested there was a significant amount of supply going unused in the region. As of Tuesday morning, the soonest appointment at the Alberta Health Services clinic in Fort McMurray was May 11. By the afternoon, several dozen spots had opened up in the next two weeks.
Mr. Adam said Mr. Kenney was wrongly blaming Indigenous people for the current outbreak, which he said are also related to nearby oil sands work camps, some of which have had significant numbers of infections, and workers coming in from outside the province..
“We don’t have an outbreak in our communities, so you can’t blame us for this outbreak,” he said.
He said more than half of the adults in his community have received a vaccine, though he acknowledged there are some people who have refused. He said provincial health officials should be doing more to improve vaccinations.
The hospital in Fort McMurray has added two beds to its seven-bed intensive care unit and postponed non-urgent procedures in an effort to cope with the wave of infections. In Fort McMurray, schools are closed for in-person instruction. Work camps in the oil sands, which house thousands of labourers, have hundreds of active COVID-19 cases among them.
COVID-19 has exposed Alberta as Canada’s other distinct society by Gary Mason, April 27, 2021
… The province has, by far, the highest active COVID-19 rates in the country. On April 22, Alberta reported 1,894 new cases – a single-day record – and from April 19 to 25, there were 11,011 new cases. Over that same period, Ontario, the population of which is more than three times the size of Alberta’s, had 28,356 – triggering a political crisis, with Premier Doug Ford apologizing to the public for his handling of matters.
To put this in perspective: If Alberta was its own country, it would have the fifth-highest seven-day average rate of new cases; Ontario would rank 11th.
Meanwhile, Albertans are also enduring a massive testing backlog, with people having to wait six days or more days to find out if they have the virus – meaning the case numbers could be even worse than we know. The situation is so dire in Fort McMurray that a state of emergency has been declared in the region.
… Think about that for a minute. If you ever needed evidence that Quebec isn’t the only distinct society in Canada, this may be it.
… The path that Alberta is on now, unfortunately, will mean that the pandemic will continue to be an ugly, painful and drawn-out affair – the kind of ending that people never forget.