September 17, 2009

Body bags sent as flu assistance

Expecting flu assistance, reserves get body bags from Ottawa

Manitoba chiefs furious after shipment from Health Canada

By Caroline Alphonso and Tu Thanh Ha
They asked for help and got body bags.

Aboriginal leaders said they were outraged and confused when dozens of body bags were delivered to remote Manitoba reserves after native communities demanded federal resources to fight a second wave of the H1N1 flu outbreak.

Chiefs interpreted the grim shipments as a dire prediction of what Ottawa expects will happen during this flu season to natives, who were hardest hit by swine flu in the spring.

Some communities didn't hold on to them for long. In a symbolic protest Wednesday evening, northern First Nations leaders returned a box of the bags to a Health Canada office in Winnipeg. Tossing more than a dozen of the polyethylene bags on the floor outside the building's lobby, Garden Hill First Nation chief David Harper called the deliveries “an insult.”
And:Mr. Harper was joined at the Winnipeg protest last night by Wasagamack Chief Jerry Knott.

“Is Canada giving up on the first nations?” Mr. Harper asked in an interview. “We're very offended. It looks like Canada is giving up on us. Or is this the flu preparedness that Canada talks about?”

In many First Nations cultures, to prepare for death is to invite death, he said.

“We have been waiting for medical supplies and here all we receive is body bags,” he said. “The government has to do better.”
Aglukkaq orders probe into body-bag incident

But Health Minister's statement, which calls move ‘insensitive and offensive,' falls short of personal apology demanded by Ignatieff over H1N1 packages delivered to native reserves

By Jane Taber
Leona Aglukkaq says she's offended both as Health Minister and an aboriginal Canadian that her department delivered body bags to native communities as a way of dealing with H1N1 flu pandemic.

Calling the incident “insensitive and offensive,” Ms. Aglukkaq pledged to get to the bottom of the issue.

“I was born and raised in remote communities and I understand the challenges better than anyone–that's why I have met frequently with First Nations organizations,” she said in a statement released this morning. “Anyone suggesting that our government's solution to H1N1 is body bags is sensationalizing this situation.”

However, her statement fell short of a personal apology, something that Michael Ignatieff was demanding Thursday morning.

The Liberal Leader accused the government of being insensitive, saying its message is simple: “We expect aboriginal Canadians to die.”

Mr. Ignatieff is outraged over the government's handling of the H1N1 crisis, especially the latest controversy in aboriginal communities. He called the decision to send body bags to at Manitoba reserve “callous.”

“It sends a message that simply says we expect aboriginal Canadians to die and when it's combined with the fact … that they haven't sent preventative measures that can save those lives, it sends a message of callous of lack compassion,” Mr. Ignatieff said to reporters in an unusual morning scrum.

“I am genuinely shocked.”
Health Canada apologizes for body bagsHealth Canada has apologized for sending more than two dozen body bags to a Manitoba First Nation in preparation for a possible swine flu outbreak.Health Canada says body-bag shipment was part of 'routine restocking'A shipment of body bags that appalled aboriginal leaders when it arrived in flu-stricken Manitoba reserves was part of "routine restocking" of supplies and had nothing to do with the second coming of swine flu, Health Canada said Thursday.Comment:  For a related subject, see Sanitizer Withheld from Flu-Ravaged Reserves.

Below:  "Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq speaks during a news conference about the swine flu outbreak in Ottawa on April 27, 2009."


Anonymous said...

So it seems as if the idiotic folks at the Health Minister dept. are quite retarded as if they can't understand the requests required of them. Or...

Maybe the Natives asking for help, weren't specific about their requests?

Whatever is the case, they need to learn to communicate effectively and be specific. Because the white man tends to misunderstand the indian.

Shadow Wolf--

Anonymous said...

As part of a larger package of aid, I wouldn't raise an eyebrow. But body bags alone? Strange.

I wonder how this happened.