First Nations leaders in the northwest are raising concerns about the recently amended public health order, prohibiting non-essential travel in that region.
Canoe Lake Cree Nation Chief Francis Iron discussed those concerns with Government Relations Minister Lori Carr Tuesday afternoon, relaying to her that he felt his people were being unfairly treated. “
The Province is practising a double standard when it comes to allowing recreational visitors into the North, while still unfairly targeting and questioning northerners trying to travel south for essential services and groceries,” said Iron.
Iron said that a fishing lodge 20 kilometres south of the First Nation, which his people use to purchase fuel, now sees southern boaters going fishing, causing concern that COVID-19 could spread to his community.
“My fear is that when you’ve got people coming in from northern Alberta and southern Saskatchewan that fear is there. If one person brings it, I’ve got cabin owners that go to the lodge to get gas and what not and if they infect one of our people it spins off,” Iron stated.
Government Relations Minister Lori Carr said to her understanding a breach of the travel restrictions by southern boaters has not occurred.
“These are people not actually entering the northwest region that is restricted by the public health order,” Carr said. She admitted that the boaters are coming close to the perimeter.
“We agree that there is a need to limit travel in the North due to COVID-19, but why isn’t that same need for travel restrictions not being enforced upon southern vacationers coming into the North and possibly transmitting this virus across the province? This double standard must stop,” explained Meadow Lake Tribal Council Tribal Chief Richard Ben.
Iron said he echoed concerns to Carr that the public health order has created a divide between the north and south, a stigma, which Iron explained that made his people feel like they were different, the danger to society and for some triggering painful memories of residential school.
He said some medical appointments for northerners are being cancelled, further re-enforcing the stigma, calling the situation not right.
Iron and Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief called for more consultation with First Nations leaders, yet Carr said she received a letter of concern from Iron on Monday and the two talked Tuesday, adding that she is committed to talking with leaders about their issues.