Alberta’s Minister of Indigenous Relations Rick Wilson called into Windspeaker Radio this morning to provide an update on the province’s COVID-19 response for Indigenous communities.
He says he’s being kept very busy with meetings in the attempt to “keep ahead of the virus here and keep the province moving forward at the same time.”
The fallout of the pandemic includes mass layoffs across the country, businesses struggling to stay viable, First Nations declaring states of emergency, and some shutting their borders to non-members.
In Alberta there are 419 confirmed cases. In Canada there are 2,020, according to the Alberta government website.
Wilson said he is constantly on the phone with First Nations leaders, with a conference call with Treaty 6 scheduled for shortly after his call into CFWE-FM’s morning show.
As far as the “barricades” into the communities, the Nations have been asked to work with the RCMP and Transportation to ensure that critical infrastructure is kept moving to allow food and medicine to get out to where it needs to be.
“If they want to protect their communities, I mean, that’s good for them to do that. And it’s important at this time that they protect their communities in the best way that they see fit,” Wilson said.
Supports for Albertans, including Indigenous peoples, have been ramped up and the response is adjusted by the hour. A number of supports can be found on the Alberta.ca website here: https://www.alberta.ca/covid-19-supports-for-albertans.aspx
And there is more to come through Family and Community Support Services, said Wilson.
“It’s about $14 million.”
The minister said he would be soon reaching out to Metis communities to ensure they make application for the dollars to ensure those citizens remain safe.
The biggest concern Minister Wilson is hearing from Indigenous leaders is their worry about getting their supplies.
“People have been panicking off the start here, and they’ve been hoarding up cleaning supplies, baby formula, insulin, food, and there’s really no need to panic.
“Don’t panic. The supply chains are intact. Food is coming back and forth across the border… The trucks are still rolling.”
He said there may even be an employment opportunity for those licensed to drive truck, with more people needed to keep those goods moving.
“Keep calm and keep carrying on,” is the message Wilson has for Indigenous peoples. “The world is still moving. We are going to get through this.”
Isolate, practise social distancing, wash your hands for a full 20 seconds with soap and water regularly.