Cuthand: Pretending things are back to normal puts province at risk

Politics will not solve this pandemic; only sound health policies and cooperation will get us through this.

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On Tuesday, Premier Scott Moe announced the end of COVID restrictions for the province. On Wednesday, the provincial health authority said COVID-19 hospitalizations hit a record high with 387 patients. The previous peak was February 3, with 384 patients.

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And yet, Moe feels the pandemic is ending and we can pretend everything is back to normal. To reinforce its decision, the province is now providing weekly COVID updates instead of the previous daily reports. Withholding information at a time when cases are peaking is wrong.

As Mark Twain once said, “Denial is not just a river in Egypt.”

So how did Saskatchewan get to this sad place in history? There are two explanations. First, it would appear that the Prime Minister bowed to pressure from the far right in Saskatchewan. Party base. Rather than take an unpopular position, he caved. This sets a precedent for any group in the future to yell and shout and throw a tantrum in order to get what they want. This is not how governments should operate. This is a dangerous move because appeasement only emboldens the far right.

Or two, it’s a case where the Prime Minister is with the protesters and believes that individual liberty trumps the common good. This far-right libertarian view of the world runs counter to Saskatchewan’s history of cooperation and an altruistic approach to life. This province was the first jurisdiction in North America to adopt universal medical care, followed by various other health and social programs that have built a unique society in the middle of the continent.

Fortunately, First Nations are outside the jurisdiction of the provincial government. Under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and treaties, we occupy a third form of government within the confederation; therefore, we can form our own health policies.

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This week, the FSIN issued a statement asking the province to reverse its decision. In a news release, the FSIN, backed by four tribal councils, called on the provincial government to reverse its decision to open the province prematurely following a two-year pandemic. “First Nations are one of the most vulnerable populations in the province and ending public health protocols will only increase outbreaks and emergencies in our communities,” they wrote.

“It is inevitable that there will be an increase in positive cases of COVID-19 in our communities and it is unfortunate that the province is straying from the path to mitigate the impact of highly contagious variants of COVID,” said the Yorkton tribal chief, Isabel O’Soup. . “Our First Nations communities and organizations will continue to be diligent and implement our risk management and mitigation strategies for this virus.”

Other chiefs like Tammy Cook-Searson of Lac La Ronge First Nation said the number of cases continues to rise in the North and that she will continue to support her frontline health care workers and maintain the COVID protocols. Cook-Searson tested positive and is currently in isolation.

Across the province, other tribal councils are urging member First Nations to stay the course and keep fighting the pandemic.

So far, there has been no reaction from the Prime Minister’s Office.

In fact, when it comes to native issues, Moe seems to be deaf. He said COVID protocols have divided Saskatchewan residents and this has never happened before. Tuesday marked the fourth anniversary of Gerald Stanley’s acquittal in the death of Colten Boushie, a trial that has sown deep divisions between First Nations and the rest of the province.

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Additionally, in a CBC interview, Moe refused to condemn the actions of people creating blockades at border crossings and in downtown Ottawa, but that was not the case two years ago when blockades were set up across the country to support the Wet’suwet’en Nation in British Columbia, who were trying to reroute the Coastal GasLink pipeline being built through their traditional territory.

On February 12, 2020, Moe tweeted: “The rule of law is a fundamental pillar of our Canadian democracy. When did the right to protest turn into the right to unlawfully interfere with the lives and livelihoods of law-abiding Canadians? »

Politics will not solve this pandemic; only sound health policies and cooperation will get us through this.

Doug Cuthand is the Aboriginal affairs columnist for the Saskatoon StarPhoenix and the Regina Leader-Post. He is a member of Little Pine First Nation.

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Martin E. Berry