Ottawa sends body bags to Manitoba reserves
Aboriginal leaders in Manitoba are horrified that some of the reserves hardest hit by swine flu in the spring have received dozens of body bags from Health Canada.
The body bags — which were sent to the remote northern reserves of Wasagamack and God's River First Nation — came in a shipment of hand sanitizers and face masks.
'Don't send us body bags. Help us organize; send us medicine.'—Grand Chief David Harper
Grand Chief David Harper, who represents northern First Nations, says body bags send the wrong message and no one can understand why Ottawa would do such a thing.
"It really makes me wonder if health officials know something we don't," he said. "I have a right to speak for my people. I make a plea to the people of Canada to work with us to ensure the lowest fatalities from this monster virus. Don't send us body bags. Help us organize; send us medicine."
Harper says it's like sending body bags to soldiers in Afghanistan.
Chief Jerry Knott of Wasagamack First Nation said his community's nursing station received about 30 body bags.
"This disturbed our community members and continues to be a major concern. We had asked for funding so we can get organized and to ensure medicines, hand sanitizers and other preventative kits were in place but, instead, we are shocked to receive the body bags," he said. "To me, this is unacceptable and I am demanding an answer.
"Is the body bags a statement from Canada that we as First Nations are on our own?"
Leona Aglukkaq, federal minister of health, said Wednesday she's ordered her deputy minister to do a "thorough and immediate" inquiry into the body bag report.
With files from The Canadian Press