First Nation communities cannot wait 72 hours to declare State of Emergency

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 12, 2019

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ANISHINAABE AND DAKOTA TERRITORY, MB, — The “Fall Storm” that hit Manitoba over the past three days has caused massive power outages, closed multiple highways, stores, and outlets that people use every day for goods and services. Snowstorms impact the delivery of essential services and supplies, especially in remote and rural communities that are much more vulnerable to weather disruptions. First Nation communities are in some of the most remote regions of the province and cannot wait the standard 72 hours necessary to declare a state of emergency to receive the support they direly need. In that timespan, consumables can start to spoil, and lives can be endangered.

There are multiple communities that have been impacted by the power outages, including: Pauingassi First Nation, Ebb and Flow First Nation, Sandy Bay First Nation, Dakota Tipi First Nation, Long Plain First Nation, Dakota Plains First Nation, and O Chi Chak Ko Sipi First Nation. We implore Indigenous Services Canada to respond to the needs of these First Nations expeditiously, before the situation gets worse.

The multi-day snowstorm has caused Interlake Reserves Tribal Council to declare states of emergency in Kinonjeoshtegon First Nation, Lake Manitoba First Nation, Pinaymootang First Nation, Peguis First Nation, Dauphin River First Nation, and Little Saskatchewan First Nation. Chairman Cornell McLean stated that, “our communities are vulnerable in natural disasters such as these. We cannot wait 72 hours to declare a state of emergency, especially elders and parents with children. Our tribal council and member communities have led these emergency management developments for years and we have determined this as the time to declare.”

SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels is very clear in his message on this issue: “We cannot have policies in place that delay potential life-saving support to First Nations people in need. Not everyone lives in a major city like Winnipeg or Brandon, so there need to be appropriate measures and policies in place to help the people who need it most in a weather crisis. People’s crucial supplies are running out, and it is irresponsible to allow such a timeline rule to prevent public aide from being dispersed when it is needed. Canada has to do better.”

Those communities and their leadership know the state of their area best and should have the decision-making power to immediately declare a crisis if they need immediate relief from public services—we all contribute too. Otherwise, we put vulnerable people’s lives unnecessarily at risk. The Southern Chiefs’ Organization stands with the Interlake Reserves Tribal Council, and all other impacted First Nations’ leadership in Southern Manitoba on this needed reform; and will be advocating for a change in the state of emergency policy for the safety of our people.

We pray for everyone’s safety this long weekend and that you receive quick relief from conditions caused by the snowstorm over the past few days. If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, please contact local emergency authorities and your leadership immediately.

 

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For further information, please contact Vic Savino, at (204) 946-1869 or via email at vic.savino@scoinc.mb.ca.