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OTTAWA – After months of ignoring pleas from Canadians to help them deal with the H1N1 flu virus, the Harper Conservatives have finally responded – by sending body bags to the First Nations communities on the front lines of the illness, Liberal Health Critic Dr. Carolyn Bennett and Winnipeg MP Anita Neville said today.“This is an absolute disgrace. This is morally appalling. This Reform-Conservative government deserves to be condemned in the strongest terms for this insensitive and callous act,” said Dr. Bennett. “Instead of flu-kits, instead of preparing and planning to get the vaccine on time – instead of planning to save lives – they spent their time planning on how to deal with the deaths.”
Added Ms. Neville: “If ever this government owed anyone an apology for its complete dereliction of their responsibility to prevent illness and protect the lives of Canadians, it is now. This is completely unacceptable and Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq and Prime Minister Harper should both personally apologize to the people of the Island Lakes communities.”
First Nations chiefs representing the communities of St. Theresa Point, Wasagamack and Garden Hill were among the first to ask the Conservatives for resources and leadership to help them prepare for another wave of the H1N1 flu virus. Canadians everywhere are still waiting.
Wasagamack Chief Jerry Nott said: “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 instead of the preventative kits. To me, this is unacceptable and I am demanding an answer.” (Winnipeg Free Press, September 16, 2009)
“These communities, like Canadians everywhere, have been struggling to come up with their own resources and their own pandemic preparedness plan in the absence of any help or leadership from the Harper government,” said Dr. Bennett. “For months the government has been all but invisible – and now this.”
“Canada’s Aboriginal peoples deserve to be treated with respect by their government,” concluded Ms. Neville. “They deserve better than Conservative insults. All Canadians deserve better than this government.”
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