Manitoba Metis Federation filing human rights complaint over COVID-19 data collection, sharing

By | September 11, 2020

The Manitoba Metis Federation plans to file a human rights complaint against the provincial government, its health minister and its top doctor, alleging discrimination in how Manitoba is collecting and sharing data linked to COVID-19 cases.

The federation sent a letter outlining its concerns — and naming Health Minister Cameron Friesen and Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin — to the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, it announced in a news release on Friday.

The complaint stems from concerns that the province hasn’t created a data-sharing agreement with the federation that would let it know when Métis people test positive for COVID-19.

The federation also wants to make sure people with COVID-19 who self-identify as Métis are actually Métis citizens, the release said.

The federation was in touch with the province in early April, and was told that self-identifying as Métis was enough for the government to list a person as Métis in its COVID-19 data — a method that’s problematic, the Métis political body says.

“Sharing incorrect data created by those who falsely identify as Métis comes with a number of problems. We want to ensure that our resources are being used in an effective way that benefits the Métis Nation and indeed all Manitobans,” President David Chartrand said in the release.

A spokesperson for the province did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

Agreement with First Nations

The province started asking patients testing positive for COVID-19 to voluntarily self-identify if they are First Nations, Métis or Inuit starting in early April, and struck a deal with First Nations leaders to track and share COVID-19 data in May.

That agreement did not include the Manitoba Metis Federation, though Roussin said at the time the province was “interested in connecting with representatives from the Métis community to work on a similar agreement.”

To date, that hasn’t happened, the MMF’s release said.

“They have been more than willing to work with the other Indigenous Peoples of Manitoba, which is great, but what about the Métis Nation?” Chartrand said.

The federation says it sent several letters to the government between April and August requesting a data sharing agreement.

It heard back from Friesen’s office late Thursday afternoon, when it got a letter that expressed interest in working with the Manitoba Metis Federation but did not address its concerns surrounding data collection, the release said.

Without a data-sharing agreement, the federation has been relying on word of mouth to learn about Métis people with COVID-19, said Manitoba Metis Federation Health Minister Frances Chartrand.

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