Written by Kathryn McBurney
More than 20,000 masks designed specifically for First Nations youth are on their way to the 63 First Nations in Manitoba thanks to a partnership between Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) and Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba (CHFM).
The AMC donated $75,000 to CHFM to help support First Nation children’s health needs. Through consultation with its Indigenous Advisory Circle, CHFM used a portion of the funds to produce a mask designed with the colours of a First Nations medicine wheel and two bears: Jordan’s Principle Spirit Bear, and the Children’s Hospital Foundation Dr. Goodbear; both logos are symbols of strength, health, family and courage.
Jordan's Principle, named in memory of Jordan River Anderson from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba, ensures that all First Nations children living on and off reserve in Canada have equitable access to services and supports they need, when they need them.
Stefano Grande, President and CEO of Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba said this support in recognition of Jordan’s Principle is part of the collaborative efforts the community needs to #continuecaringforkids. “We exist so our community can offer the best care and support to sick and injured children. We believe this support right now to First Nations in Manitoba is absolutely vital to the current and future health of First Nation children.”
Each mask is 3-ply cotton with an added removeable filter for a fourth layer of protection against COVID-19 transmission.
“These masks are a welcome support at a time when children and youth could use these masks for their protection at school and other places they need to go,” said AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas. “It is critical that we are diligent with following the protective public health measures – like wearing multilayered face masks - to reduce the impacts as much as we can. This collaboration demonstrates how our community is working together and enlisting the help of Dr. Goodbear and Spirit Bear to put a smile on the faces of children during these difficult times as we try to keep kids safer and healthier.”
Photo: Dr. Melanie Morris.
Dr. Melanie Morris, Lead of Indigenous Health at Children's Hospital believes the health of Indigenous children reflects the health and the moral compass for our province and our country.
“The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Children’s Hospital Foundation are strengthening communities by helping reduce the spread of COVID-19 by making masks available to every First Nation child in the Province, which resonates with me as a Pediatric Surgeon and as the Lead of Indigenous Health at the Children's Hospital,” said D. Morris. “At a time when we may feel powerless in the face of a pandemic, these masks are a source of power over the virus and power to strengthen our communities, children and Elders especially as the masks contain the colors and symbol of the medicine wheel and the two bears.”
Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre Inc. supported the collaborative effort by packaging the masks for even distribution between the communities and The Northwest Company has offered to ship a portion of masks to communities with Northwest Company stores at no charge.
CHFM will supply an additional 9,500 of the Spirit Bear/Dr. Goodbear masks to Children’s Hospital Emergency Department for any child requiring care and their family who may need a mask during their child’s emergency care.
The CHFM Indigenous Advisory Circle is a volunteer council that has been in place since early 2020 and supports the mandate of the Board of CHFM through the provision of information and meaningful advice, within an Indigenous perspective and worldview; allowing CHFM to build meaningful and collaborative relationships with Indigenous leadership to improve the health of children, and at HSC Winnipeg Children’s Hospital through engagement, research, advocacy and fundraising.