By The Canadian Press
SHAMATTAWA, Man. — The Canadian Armed Forces says it will send a team of reservists to a First Nation in Manitoba to help with the community’s COVID-19 response.
The military says in an email that roughly six Canadian Rangers will work alongside other members of the community in Shamattawa to provide humanitarian assistance.
It says that assistance will include distributing food, firewood and care packages, as well as information and transportation.
Shamattawa Chief Eric Redhead posted online Friday that there were 117 active infections in the northern Manitoba community of about 1,100, saying they were “literally at a breaking point.”
Redhead called on the federal government to provide military help, saying health professionals with the rapid response team in Shamattawa have also tested positive or are isolating due to exposure.
The military says the support has been requested for a period of 30 days, and that as the situation develops, it will continue to assess the requirement for support.
The head of the Manitoba Keeywatinowi Okimakanak, an organization that represents northern First Nations, called the military assistance “excellent news.”
But Grand Chief Garrison Settee also noted in a statement that homes in Shamattawa are often overcrowded and the water system is unable to serve the entire community.
It is also dealing with a tuberculosis outbreak, he said.
“It is for these reasons that we must act swiftly when responding to requests for assistance from our First Nations,” Settee said. “All First Nations want to be self-sufficient and we do not want to have to cry out for help, but we are all living in extraordinary times.”
Settee said members of the Bear Clan, a street patrol group, and the Canadian Red Cross were also arriving in Shamattawa this weekend to help.