Chiefs want apology for sanitizer slight

WINNIPEG — Canada’s health minister must apologize on behalf of Health Canada for withholding hand sanitizers from flu-stricken reserves because they contained alcohol, one of Manitoba grand chiefs said Tuesday.

WINNIPEG — Canada’s health minister must apologize on behalf of Health Canada for withholding hand sanitizers from flu-stricken reserves because they contained alcohol, one of Manitoba grand chiefs said Tuesday.

Grand Chief Sydney Garrioch, who represents Manitoba’s northern reserves, was responding to reports from an Senate committee meeting in Ottawa.

A representative from the Assembly of First Nations told the committee time was wasted discussing whether it would be appropriate to send the disinfectants to communities battling alcohol addiction.

A representative from Health Canada said First Nation chiefs were involved in the pandemic discussions, including whether to use alcohol-based sanitizers.

But Garrioch said he doesn’t know of any consultation and the assumption that hand sanitizers would be abused is offensive to all First Nations people across Canada.

“It’s outrageous, the ignorance and possibly some racism, expressed toward First Nation people,” Garrioch said. “First Nations leaders and the communities know the intent and uses of hand sanitizers. I don’t think our people will be using it for alcohol-related matters.”

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq should formally apologize to all aboriginals on behalf of the bureaucracy, he said.

“There should be an immediate apology issued,” Garrioch said.

Yet Chief David Harper of the remote northern Manitoba community of Garden Hill said he initially raised concerns with the government over the idea of one-litre bottles of alcohol-based hand sanitizer being sent to his community.

“We were worried about a tendency to drink that stuff, and we’ve heard from way back this would be a concern.”

The community decided instead to order supplies itself, choosing hand-sanitizing wipes that contained alcohol as well as a type of liquid sanitizer that did not, he said.

A week after those supplies were brought to the community and handed out, 2,500 bottles of government hand sanitizer finally arrived, he said.

“If we’re going to fight this pandemic flu, we have to do something. Something has to be done now, and not when a virus has spread over the community, you don’t wait for that.”

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says some communities had to wait almost a month before they got the hand sanitizers they needed.

Acting Grand Chief Donavan Fontaine said it’s outrageous to delay essential supplies to reserves in the middle of a severe flu outbreak.

“There should not have been any delay in getting the supplies to the communities. That is the real issue,” Fontaine said in a statement. “If we’ve learned anything from this outbreak, it’s that the federal bureaucracy needs to improve its response time.”

Health Canada said in a statement that some communities have concerns about the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers and each community should be considered individually.

Alcohol-free hand sanitizers are “currently on back order.”

“Health Canada believes it is important to evaluate the issue with First Nations communities in order to determine the best public health approach,” it said in the statement.

The hand sanitizer issue is just one small symptom of the host of problems facing aboriginal populations in dealing with the virus, said Chief Angus Toulouse, who follows health for the Assembly of First Nations.

More money needs to be put into pandemic planning for First Nations and the government needs to study how recent swine flu outbreaks in Ontario and Manitoba were dealt with before an expected influx of infections this fall, he said.

Manitoba’s aboriginal population has been hit hard by swine flu.

Of the province’s most severe cases, the majority of patients in intensive care have been aboriginal.

Just Posted

City Hall Park construction begins next week

Construction to update Red Deer’s City Hall Park is set to begin… Continue reading

PHOTOS: Jazz at the Lake begins

The 16 annual event began Friday and runs until Sunday in Sylvan Lake

Photos: Lunchtime tunes on Alexander Way

Final concert of the summer

Clearwater regional firefighters in B.C.

Crew operating west of Prince George

PHOTOS: Samson Cree Nation Pow Wow

The Samson Cree Nation hosted its annual Pow Wow, celebrating youth last weekend

WATCH: Feasting at Red Deer Ribfest this weekend

Ribfest runs until Sunday at Rotary Recreation Park

Canadians believe in immigration but concerned about asylum seekers: study

OTTAWA — Canadians are generally supportive of current immigration levels, a survey… Continue reading

Quebec announces plan to compensate taxi drivers after Uber’s arrival

MONTREAL — The Quebec government has outlined how it intends to compensate… Continue reading

Hospitals to see ‘delays’ in care after losing Saudi students, health group says

OTTAWA — The loss of Saudi Arabian resident physicians in Canada’s hospitals… Continue reading

PHOTOS: B.C. city wakes up to darkness under wildfire smoke

The rest of the province also dealing with thick haze as smoky skies continue

Death Valley worker has seen highest, lowest temperatures

LAS VEGAS — Thousands of tourists descend on Death Valley each summer… Continue reading

Banff’s Sunshine ski resort upset with proposed guidelines from Parks Canada

BANFF, Alta. — An internationally known ski resort in Banff National Park… Continue reading

Folk singer Ian Tyson cancels show due to ‘serious medical situation’

TORONTO — Canadian folk singer-songwriter Ian Tyson has cancelled his appearance at… Continue reading

Judge lifts publication ban, revealing details about Fredericton shooting

FREDERICTON — Newly released documents reveal how last week’s deadly attack unfolded… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month