Norway House Cree Nation to evacuate residents of personal care homes as health concerns rise
A Manitoba First Nation goes out on its own and evacuates residents from its personal care home for safety reasons.
Beginning Friday, Norway House Cree Nation will relocate 22 residents to the community medical boarding house in Winnipeg, with 20 staff members remaining in the city to assist them, the councilor said. said Deon Clarke.
Norway House renovated its personal care home, Pinaow Wachi, but their efforts were hampered by a collapsing sewer line, sewage backing up in several rooms and two months without hot water. They are also concerned about radon exposure from the disturbed foundation.
“We were going enough is enough. We’re risking workers’ health, we’re risking residents’ health,” Clarke said.
The decision to evacuate was made last week and, Clarke said, the province was initially willing to help. They first offered a multi-level facility in Portage la Prairie, but Norway House said it wouldn’t be accessible to their seniors, Clarke said.
Province’s alternatives rejected
The province then decided to scatter residents across the province, but Clarke said the community was not keen on separating people from their friends and neighbors.
He said the government then considered keeping residents in their personal care homes. A provincial health inspector deemed the facility to be fine, Clarke said, but community leaders disagreed.
“They are our elders. They are our lore keepers. They are our language keepers,” he said. “Their time with us is very valuable, and we must keep the best interests of our elders in mind.”
The councilor said Norway House had no choice but to create its own accommodation, without help from the province or Shared Health. Clarke said talks with the province have since broken down.
He said Indigenous Services Canada had conditionally agreed to support Norway House’s resettlement efforts. Clarke hopes that the federal ministry and the provincial government will provide financial assistance.
Neither the provincial government nor Indigenous Services Canada responded to requests for comment late Wednesday.
Evacuation is expected to begin on Friday, Clarke said.
The Manitoba Liberals discussed the evacuation during question period on Wednesday. Chief Dougald Lamont called on the PC government to cover the financial costs, as health care falls under provincial jurisdiction.
“The whole question is, why is Norway House stuck in this position that they don’t know who is going to pay for this?” Lamont told reporters afterwards.