Isolation tents, Red Cross deployed to Manitoba First Nations battling COVID-19

The federal government has sent special isolation tents to a remote Manitoba First Nation that's the centre of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Grand chief says military hospital may need to be set up if cases rise

COVID-19 cases a concern in remote Manitoba First Nations

3 years ago
Duration 1:54
Manitoba has seen higher numbers of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks and though most of the cases are around Winnipeg, there is also concern about remote First Nations communities that lack critical resources.

Sunshine Bushie and her three children aren't leaving their home in Little Grand Rapids First Nation.

More than 30 people on the Manitoba fly-in reserve have tested positive for COVID-19. The outbreak has triggered a special response from the federal government.

Ottawa has set up two special isolation tents on the reserve and the Canadian Red Cross had a team in the community this weekend.

"I pray for our community, for the people and for the ones that were positive with it," Bushie said in a FaceTime interview Sunday.

A Red Cross team in Little Grand Rapids this weekend. The First Nation is one of several in Manitoba with reported COVID-19 cases. (Submitted by Canadian Red Cross)

Little Grand Rapids, which the Southeast Resource Development Council Corporation says has an on-reserve population of 1,368 people, is one of nine Manitoba First Nations communities reporting COVID-19 cases.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said as of Friday, half the people in hospital in Manitoba were First Nations. The AMC reported 60 known active cases on reserve. That number makes up just under half of all active cases in Canada on First Nations reserves.

The First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba said people sick are as young as one and as old as 86. Half who've been diagnosed have an underlying health issue.

42 isolation tents on standby

Manitoba Red Cross spokesperson Jason Small said a team was in York Factory First Nation and then Little Grand Rapids to help with COVID-19 testing, teach people how to use PPE and prevent virus transmission.

It's the first time the Red Cross has been deployed to a reserve during the pandemic in Manitoba, Small said.

"The biggest thing was providing information to community members, and especially with the training, that was a major role for us because we have the health expertise we can share, which a lot of people may not be familiar with."

Indigenous Services Canada said it has 42 more isolation tents on standby in Manitoba and Ontario for fly-in communities that may need them.

Little Grand Rapids mother Sunshine Bushie says her children are getting tired of being stuck inside during the lockdown in their community. (Sunshine Bushie/Facebook)

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas said a field hospital may need to be set up if numbers continue to rise in Little Grand Rapids.

"It's quite alarming. We knew that it was going to happen. We just didn't realize it was going to happen as significant as it is," he said in an interview Saturday.

Bushie said she's been staying inside for two weeks already and while she doesn't mind being in, her kids do.

"For my boy, he misses playing outside but nobody [can] go out," she said.

"He misses his friends."

Ottawa sent these isolation tents to Little Grand Rapids after a spike in COVID-19 cases on the reserve. The tents were set up on Saturday and the government says 42 more are ready in stockpiles for Manitoba and Ontario if needed. (Submitted by Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Response Coordination Team)


​Austin Grabish is a reporter for CBC News in Winnipeg. Since joining CBC in 2016, he's covered several major stories. Some of his career highlights have been documenting the plight of asylum seekers leaving America in the dead of winter for Canada and the 2019 manhunt for two teenage murder suspects. In 2021, he won an RTDNA Canada award for his investigative reporting on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which triggered change. Have a story idea? Email: