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Moose Jaw’s Métis community stepping up to help each other

The three main areas in which people need the most help have been with paying bills and acquiring medications and groceries
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Moose Jaw’s New Southern Plains Métis Local 160 has been reaching out to its members during the pandemic to understand better how it can meet their needs and support them.

“A lot of (our members) are tired of being shut in, but they’re doing well,” Darrell Hawman, president of Local 160, said recently. “We had a good response … (of) people saying they’re OK, but they’re referring us to other folks who might not be as fortunate as them.”

The three main areas in which people need the most help have been with paying bills and acquiring medications and groceries. To address these concerns, Local 160 has either helped people with their medication and grocery issues or referred people to the regional Métis Nation – Saskatchewan (MN–S) office for financial support.

The Métis community in Moose Jaw is reasonably resilient, Hawman said. Many people are relieved that the local office is reaching out to them, especially since some members have “little disasters” that require attention. It has been gratifying to help people during this difficult time and to have the support of regional and provincial leaders.

Métis Nation – Saskatchewan recently announced it would provide $7.25 million to households across the province that the coronavirus pandemic has negatively affected. Hawman thought this funding was a big deal and knows it will help many Métis people in the community.

The provincial organization is already rolling out several programs to help its members, explained Wendy Gervais, regional representative for MN–S Western Region 3 (southwest Saskatchewan). A command centre has been created in Regina to co-ordinate the requests people are emailing in for financial support.

“There was a great demand throughout the whole region — including Moose Jaw — so that was a very positive experience for us as a region … ,” she said, adding the provincial funding was a stop-gap measure to help those waiting for federal assistance.

The leaders of New Southern Plains Métis Local 160 have done an excellent job of supporting their members, continued Gervais. She commended them for helping residents who need deliveries of groceries or medications.

The last six weeks have been a learning experience for the Métis community, she noted. The regional office has encouraged its members to stay home and practise physical distancing. As the provincial government moves to re-open the province in the coming weeks, the regional Métis leadership will determine how it can meet the needs of residents.

One idea will be to develop community gardens in every community in which there are Métis people. MN–S will ask municipalities if they will provide tracts of land so gardens can be created and produce grown this season.

Another idea will be to ensure a supportive community surrounds seniors and people who are isolated. This could include establishing phone trees and reaching out to people that way. Even a 10-minute call to some seniors can brighten their day, added Gervais.

With a chuckle, Hawman recalled one phone conversation he had with an 82-year-old woman, who told him her mother had died at age 102. The woman remarked that she hoped to survive the pandemic and live as long as — if not longer than — her mother.

“In this region, we are really seeing communities step up and support each other,” Gervais added. “It is humbling to see that and that involvement.”

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