NEWS > EVERYONE ELSE > CANADIAN OFFICIALS EXPECT NATIVES WILL NEED BODY BAGS NO MATTER WHAT
CANADIAN OFFICIALS EXPECT NATIVES WILL NEED BODY BAGS NO MATTER WHAT
September 23 2009
Ottawa, Canada – The story is a very similar one to native peoples all across the world. From the Aborigines in Australia to the Maori in New Zealand, from the Toba of Argentina to the Inuit of Canada indigenous people have a very familiar history no
matter how distantly they are located from one another. Much of that story revolves around the Europeans how they have affected native culture. Everything from forced sterilization to near eradication of the people the effect of Europeans has been uniformly devastating to native peoples everywhere the two have met.
There is, perhaps, no better example of that collision of cultures than in Canada which is home to three distinct native cultures, the First Nations, the Inuit, and the Métis. With Alaska and Canada the first place indigenous culture formed in the Americas it was most firmly established in those areas upon the arrival of Europeans and so has often shown the most difficulty. Though much has been done in recent years to bring the two cultures together in the country many obstacles remain. With drug and alcohol abuse a major problem through native reservations in the country death is unfortunately still common through the First Nations tribes, something the Canadian government recognized, sending body bags rather than H1N1 medication to a reserve in Manitoba.
“We really regret the alarm this incident has caused and it was unintended. We order these supplies as a matter of routine business and ... this was part of a very normal restocking process,” said Jim Wolfe, regional director for Health Canada. “It is unfortunate that this has been linked exclusively with H1N1Whether it's a nursing station in a remote First Nations community in northern Manitoba, or a hospital in downtown Vancouver, supplies are constantly being restocked to prepare for unknown and unforeseen events, whether it be a plane crash, environmental disaster or pandemic.”
Canada has had an ongoing problem with both perception and actuality portraying a less than robust culture amongst First Nations people living on the various reserves throughout the country. The Minister of Health for the country is Leona Aglukkaq, an Inuk born in the Northwest Territories. She was not directly responsible for the shipment of body bags but expressed her support for her regional director.
“It was insensitive and offensive. As minister of health and as an aboriginal I am offended. To all who took offence at what occurred, I want to say that I share your concern and I pledge to get to the bottom of it. I have ordered my deputy minister to conduct a thorough and immediate inquiry into the situation. I will make the result of the inquiry public,” said Aglukkaq in a statement. “The story though has been sensationalized by many and that behaviour must end. We routinely stock commonly required medical materials such as personal protective equipment, pharmaceuticals and other medical supplies such as body bags. Simply put, they are going to need the bags so let’s not get too excited over this.”
Because of the delicate nature of relations between the government and First Nations people across the country the furor has become a hot topic for Canadian news agencies and government critics both within the indigenous community and beyond.
“The history and harsh reality of life on the reserves inevitably makes a lot of people anxious when issues like this occur and that cause them to react a little more harshly than they would normally have done. The reality is this reserve is in a very isolated area of Manitoba that will be largely inaccessible once the winter comes and they are going to need these supplies,” said Scrape TV Racism analyst Drake Douglas. “In a lot of ways it makes more sense than sending H1N1 supplies because of that isolation. There are a lot of other ways for people in that community to die and the likelihood of Swine Flu actually making it to such an isolated community is very unlikely. If it does though at least they will be prepared and if not, well let’s face it they were going to need the body bags anyway.”
Reportedly, the community has already made use of the fresh body bags.