Completing youth centre would be better pandemic response than mobile shelters, says MCCN chief

The chief of Mathias Colomb Cree Nation (MCCN) at Pukatawagan says the federal government awarding a field hospital contract to an out-of-province company is paternalistic and a poor substitute to a community-driven alternative.

MCCN Chief Lorna Bighetty said in a May 6 press release that her First Nation wasn’t consulted on the contract, which CBC Newfoundland and Labrador reported was awarded to Dynamic Air Shelters, a Calgary and Newfoundland-based company that will provide nine mobile structures for triage, isolation and accommodation.

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“Paternalism is the interference of Canada with a First Nation that is motivated by a claim that the First Nation interfered with will be better off or protected from harm. That concept of paternalism is evident in the way that this process has been carried out,” said Bighetty. “Canada has ignored our community driven-response to the COVID-19 pandemic and is electing to proceed unilaterally under the cover of its own process.” 

MCCN says a solution it proposed - to complete the First Nation’s youth centre, which would take two to three weeks and provide 6,000 square feet of space for pandemic response purposes as well as a permanent facility - would be preferable to bringing in outside workers to erect mobile shelters.

“To promote the safety of community members we need to be sure that all construction crews test negative for COVID-19 before any travel to MCCN,” said MCCN Coun. Shirley Castel. “Moreover, arrangements must be made so that they are completely self-contained and have absolutely no contact with community members once they arrive.”  

MCCN chief and council say they have not been consulted about those safety concerns and called on the federal government to engage in full, good-faith consultation and collaboration to assist the First Nation’s responses to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

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