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Flu prep: Ottawa ships body bags to northern Manitoba reserves

OTTAWA - Chiefs in northern Manitoba are not impressed with Ottawa’s most recent shipment of materials to prepare for an expected H1N1 influenza outbreak: body bags.

At least four first nations in northern Manitoba were sent body bags in shipments of supplies from Health Canada intended for the H1N1 influenza.

Garden Hill Chief David Harper said the nursing station in Wasagamack got 30 body bags and God’s Lake received 20 of them, along with boxes of hand sanitizer wipes and masks. Body bags were also included in shipments to Garden Hill and St. Theresa Point, but Harper said the number was unknown.

Harper said this is an offensive action from Health Canada.

"This says to me they’ve given up," he said.

Harper said normally the RCMP always have a few body bags in their offices on reserve but the nursing station has not received them before.

Manitoba NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis was incredulous and planned to ask the Health Committee this afternoon for an immediate investigation for the "callous, insensitive and incompetent" action.

"It’s unbelievable," she said. "It’s the ultimate expression of incompetence from Health Canada."

She said Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq won’t support the shipments of flu kits and her department took weeks to send hand sanitizer in the spring but now they are sending body bags.

"This is a time of worry and anxiety already and for Health Canada to respond in this way gets to the heart of what the chiefs have been saying about them all along."

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said she was disturbed by the reports of the body bags and has ordered her deputy minister to conduct an immediate inquiry into what happened.


Updated on Wednesday, September 16, 2009 at 2:39 PM CDT: Updates with more detail, reaction.

3:16 PM: Adds reaction from Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq.

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