Military help coming to hard-hit Shamattawa First Nation

Click to play video 'Shamattawa First Nation pleads for help' Shamattawa First Nation pleads for help
WATCH ABOVE: The COVID-19 crisis is deepening in the Shamattawa First Nation in Manitoba. Mike Le Couteur reports on the calls for help, and how COVID-19 isn't the only health crisis this remote community is dealing with – Dec 9, 2020

Canada’s military is stepping in to help with a COVID-19 crisis on Manitoba’s Shamattawa First Nation.

Chief Eric Redhead says the Canadian Armed Forces Rangers are being deployed to the remote community of around 1,000 people, which has seen 144 cases of the virus as of Saturday morning.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak officials say Redhead “demanded” military assistance in a meeting with federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller earlier this week.

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Earlier in the week, Chief Redhead told Global News the community has a test positivity rate of 50 per cent. Manitoba’s provincial average is around 13 per cent.

Chief Redhead says the Rangers are bringing a field hospital with them, including medical staff to help with testing, contact tracing and treating the sick.

They are also providing temporary structures so those infected with COVID-19 don’t spread it within the community and those who have been identified as close contacts can self-isolate.

The Canadian Armed Forces confirmed about six Canadian Rangers assisting.

“Canadian Armed Forces support has been requested for a period of 30 days. As the situation develops, we will continue to assess the requirement for CAF support in the area,” said a spokesperson for the armed forces.

In a plea with community members on Saturday, Chief Redhead says this is not the end of the community’s COVID-19 battle.

Read more: ‘This is an unfolding nightmare’: Shamattawa First Nation COVID-19 outbreak worsens

“The only way to beat this is for everyone to stay home. Don’t allow visitors [and] limit your contact with others until we beat this.”

The Rangers typically provide mobile help to remote areas of Canada and are proficient in many Indigenous languages.

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There’s no word on when the help will touch down.

Shamattawa First Nation is located approximately 750 km northeast of Winnipeg.

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