Canada Sabrina Maddeaux: Trudeau Liberals turn blind eye as COVID rages through Kashechewan First Nation
Discovery of 215 Indigenous graves had 'profound emotional impact' on Canadians, survey finds
The discovery of the graves of 215 Indigenous children on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School has had a “profound emotional impact” on Canadians, a new survey suggests. Of the 1,513 people surveyed by Maru Public Opinion in early June, the majority said the discovery had changed how they view Indigenous people. Seventy-three per cent also found that it had affected them emotionally. “Whatever has happened here has triggered a response, particularly among young people and women in this country,” said John Wright, executive vice president of Maru Public Opinion. “This is something people can relate to, but are horrified to understand.
Two weeks after the discovery of the remains of 215 children buried at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., what have we learned? If the COVID-19 crisis in Kashechewan, Ont., is any indication: not much.
So soon after politicians appeared in front of news cameras to express their horror and outrage over the 215 lost children, some as young as three, the Kashechewan First Nation is in the midst of a preventable third wave that has heavily infected children, some as young as seven weeks.
Kelly McParland: How both Trudeau and Air Canada share the same cluelessness
Every once in a while some poor soul boggled by the seeming bottomlessness of government ineptitude wonders aloud, “Why can’t government be run like a business?” There are plenty of answers to that question. One goes like this: Be careful what you wish for. Judging by the things politicians and corporate leaders get up to, there’s often little to separate the two in the battle for supremacy in cluelessness. Take, for example, Air Canada’s reaction when Canadians learned that, after months of pleading poverty and begging for a rescue package from Ottawa, the airline had awarded generous bonuses to a bunch of its executives for the job they did propping up the airline.
Just a couple of days ago, the youngest was four months old.
Kashechewan has a population of around 2,000. There were 232 active COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday, the CBC, with more than half being kids under 12. The rate of infection is more than one out of every 10 residents.
Media has been largely silent — politicians outside of the NDP even more so. When COVID raged through marginalized populations in Toronto-area Peel Region, where multigenerational households of six to eight people are common, there was at least outcry.
In Kashechewan, it’s common to find 18 people living in a three-bedroom home. When the virus catches, it simply spreads like wildfire. We know how this works. When it happens now, this late in the pandemic, it is a choice.
Matt Gurney: Justin Trudeau's G7 mask hypocrisy is a symptom of deeper rot in our political system
“Ugh, check out the hypocrisy,” is a saying I’ve heard a lot since photos emerged of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau taking his mask on and off like a costume at last weekend’s G7 summit in the United Kingdom. For the most part, it was apparent that the prime minister was not wearing a mask during events with the other leaders, but for certain pictures, he made a point of being masked. This echoed the recent choice by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, at a meeting of G7 financial ministers, to behave similarly — unmasked at the event, but carefully masked for official photos.
The community’s chief continues to beg for help, but has been mostly ignored by those in power, including Justin Trudeau’s governing Liberals, who are happy to make grand speeches about past crimes against Indigenous people while ignoring the ones they currently oversee. They’ve overlooked Kashechewan’s dire housing crisis for years. Now, the feds decline to provide adequate isolation facilities for the infected and exposed.
Chief Leo Friday also says his request for military assistance to erect a field hospital at the community’s high school has gone unanswered. Desperate, he has also called on the Ontario Provincial Police to help maintain safety and security as the Kashechewan police force struggles to handle the COVID emergency on top of an existing substance abuse crisis.
On Monday, the federal Minister of Indigenous Services, Marc Miller, issued ato answer those critical of his government’s response, writing, “Together, we are continually assessing the situation in Kashechewan and providing additional supports as needed.” Those supports do include a belated allocation of 15 Canadian Rangers, six additional nurses for a total of 15 nurses in the community, and a vague promise of “adequate” PPE, but notably don’t include most of what Chief Friday actually asked for.
John Robson: Justin Trudeau positioning himself as 'dean' of the G7 is laughable
Apparently Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fancies himself the “dean” of the G7, based on his maturity, wisdom and … be quiet back there. This is a serious news story. Not as serious as the one about the G7 communique lambasting China’s aggressive tyranny. That one reminded me of the time when adults were in charge. Which the G7 leadership does not always do. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is not exactly a grownup even if he has found time to father more children than he can count.
Worse, while COVID ravages Kashechewan’s children, the federal government spent Monday morningother First Nations children who were torn from their families, arguing against not one, but two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings.
As for Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who emerged from wherever he’s been largely hiding from the public to lament the discovery of 215 children and commit $10 million to the possible discovery of more? He’s yet to publicly utter the word “Kashechewan” as the crisis unfolds. Neither has Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott.
Without government help, the Kashechewan community has been left to fend for itself. It has done what it can, erecting some tents for isolation purposes, but these still have shared bathroom and kitchen facilities.
This is far from the first time the Ontario and federal governments have failed Kashechewan. Last spring, this exact crisis was practically foretold when the Ontario governmenta proper evacuation plan or facilities as the community was flooded. The result? More people crammed into fewer households.
'Alarming situation' but help slow in coming for struggling Kashechewan, chief says
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller insisted help has already arrived in a "very fragile" Kashechewan and more is on the way. "COVID moves faster than the government," Miller said. "We keep assessing and reassessing how we can go faster."Miller said 15 Canadian Rangers as well as 15 nurses and three paramedics — double the normal numbers — along with 16 Red Cross members were now on site, and more money and help was expected to flow. While high vaccination rates among reserve adults had created a "firewall," children remained vulnerable, he said.
In 2018, Canadian politicians simply watched as the Kashechewan First Nation’s school. Chronic water damage resulted in fire alarms not working and children getting lung infections and pneumonia from the mould. Those same children are now being infected with COVID-19 at a per capita rate unheard of anywhere else in North America.
When Indigenous communities say that apologies and promises aren’t enough, this is why. In Trudeau’s remarks on the 215 children, he said, “These were children who deserved to be happy. Most of all, they deserved to be safe.”
Do Kashechewan’s children not deserve to be safe and happy?
Undoubtedly, Trudeau, Ford and their political kin will eventually stand in front of cameras to swear that they do, to publicly declare their solidarity with the Kashechewan people and other First Nations across the province and country. When that day comes, their words shouldn’t be applauded. They should be held to account for all of their past hollow and broken promises.
Remember, it was only two weeks ago they apologized for the remains of 215 missing Indigenous children. Yet here we are, again, on the cusp of a preventable disaster for hundreds more.
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