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Northwest Metis Council keeping Metis citizens safe during the pandemic


Last week Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made national headlines, again. This time to accusations of hidden COVID-19 camps being set up all over rural Manitoba. The actual story is that the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) is actively stepping up to take care of Metis people during the pandemic by utilizing camps they already owned, to house and care for Metis people, should they test positive for the virus.
“The MMF has been working on this since COVID first came out,” said Northwest Metis Council and Health
Minister for the Manitoba Metis Federation, Frances Chartrand. “We were worried there would be no safe
place for Metis citizens across the province of Manitoba to go if they were sick. As many are aware, the Premier of Manitoba currently does not acknowledge the Metis citizens or try to make space or programs and services for us; so we have to take care of the Metis citizens ourselves. We knew they were going
to run short with hospitals, we knew that there was not going to be enough services or programs for anyone who got sick.
“We have small Metis communities across the province we worked with to get these isolation camps set up. We’ll have nurse practitioners, doctors, and staff on site around the clock. We want to make sure they have a safe place and then as soon as they are better and will not spread the virus, they can go home.
“There is one COVID camp in Treherne and one right here, in our region, just outside of Winnipegosis,” continued Chartrand. “We also we partnered with some organizations and communities to apply for  funding for COVID emergency placements in some hotels in the communities of Swan River and Dauphin.”
These camps that are being used are existing structures, purchased by the MMF long before the pandemic
started. “We purchased these camps and were working with the Province of Manitoba under the NDP leadership,” said Chartrand. “They were purchased under our economic development venture and we
utilized these camps when we were doing the Bi-pole project. Once we are cleared of the pandemic, we are going to further utilize these as cultural camps for our Metis youth all across Manitoba.” Metis families who test positive and need to stay at the camp, can reach out to the Northwest Metis Council for assistance by contacting the NWMC office. “Our office will spring into action and we will make sure that we have someone pick them up or the family can come into the camp on their own,” said Chartrand. “We will make sure we do an assessment and intake at each of the camps. Then we will place them right into the rooms. At the camp in Winnpegosis, there are approximately 24 rooms available.” “Everything will be available to those staying at the camp. Everything will be available to those staying at the camp, including meals prepared by an on-site chef. We are equipped with televisions, Internet, and full services.
When people are in isolation, it can get very boring and can feel like they have nothing to do. We have  made sure we can accommodate them so that it feels like they are at home.” 
The MMF has also extended their COVID-19 programs to include food hampers and the providing of educational resources to those who are remote learning or home schooling. “We are currently running a hamper program and are trying to supply these to our seniors, elders and vulnerable people,” said Chartrand. “We have a staff of direct service workers that go into our communities and deliver hampers. 
Across the Northwest Region, we have delivered over a 1,000 hampers to date for the first and second  wave of this pandemic. “Right now we have an Accessible Technology Program that is run out of the NWMC office, and we provide refurbished laptops to Metis families in need. They can now use Zoom or communicate with their teachers to complete their studies. We also have a provincial initiative with the
Louis Riel Institute, and hired teachers where we could do remote learning or home schooling for our Metis citizens who are concerned about learning in the classroom during this time.”
With so much uncertainty surrounding this pandemic, the MMF felt it couldn’t wait any longer before stepping in to help Metis citizens. “We wanted to make sure our citizens were safe at home,” said
Chartrand. “We wanted to assist them in any way possible. We can’t wait for the provincial government
to finally decide what they are going to do. We have to make sure our youth and our citizens are safe. There are a lot of grandparents raising their grandchildren, so they have to be careful where they travel to and what they do. “We also have to make sure we partner with any school division out there, that wants to partner with us and that we all work together. According to the news media outlets today, there are schools that have outbreaks and we want to make sure we can prevent that. It will help ensure
that none of the youth are bringing COVID-19 back to their parents and family members.”
Overall the MMF’s goal has been to help their Metis citizens and work with communities and organizations
to stop the spread of COVID. “We are working diligently to get the word out and educate our Metis  citizens on what COVID-19 is, what the restrictions are and make sure that everyone knows that they
have to stay home and be safe,” said Chartrand.
“I want to make sure our citizens are safe and that they practice social distancing. I don’t want them to go into large gatherings. I want them to continue to hand sanitize and wear masks. If Metis citizens need any programs or services during this pandemic, I want them to contact our NWMC regional office and we assist them in any way we can.”