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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

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Premier Ford's vaccine line-jumping charge shows 'lack of respect' for Indigenous people, First Nations MPP says

TORONTO – A First Nations MPP who was accused by Ontario Premier Doug Ford of “line-jumping” to get a COVID – 19 vaccine says the premier’s comments demonstrate a lack of compassion and respect for First Nations.

“I was floored,” Sol Mamakwa told CTV News Channel in an interview Friday. “But I thought about his lack of understanding of on-reserve Indigenous people in the community because he kept referring to the on-reserve rollout.

“ The more I thought about it, the more (I thought about) the lack of compassion, the lack of respect that he has for Indigenous people, Indigenous leaders and the indifference that exists. ”

It was during Question Period at Queen’s Park on Thursday that Mamakwa came under fire from Ford. The NDP MPP from the Kiiwetinoong riding rose to ask the government what it has done to vaccinate vulnerable Indigenous people in urban areas.

Ford did not answer specifically, but shot back that vaccinating Indigenous people in remote communities was one of the government’s top priorities and then added the line-jumping accusation.

“That was one of our highest priorities to go into the 31 fly-in communities , ”Ford said. Not only did Ornge fly in, but the member flew in to get his vaccine. So thank you for doing that and kind of jumping the line. And I talked to a few chiefs that were pretty upset about that, for flying into a community that he does not belong but that’s here nor there. ”

Mamakwa said he was invited by community elders to get his second vaccine dose in Muskrat Dam Falls in early February. The community is in his home riding and the invitation was extended to him in order to help combat vaccine hesitancy.

He made no secret of his inoculation, posting about it at the time on social media as part of an effort to convince Indigenous people to accept COVID – 19 vaccines.

He said that Ford’s response represents a colonialist attitude towards First Nations people.

“His stereotypes about me as a First Nations MPP, you know, it’s what colonialism looks like in 2021,” Mamakwa said. “The premier’s saying where I should be as a First Nations person to get the vaccine while not understanding, or even caring, where Indigenous people live in Ontario and I think that was very clear.”

He also said Friday he had no idea what Ford was talking about when he said that several chiefs were upset.

“No one has reached out to me. That’s the first time I have heard about it. I have no idea what he’s talking about, ”Mamakwa said.

Ontario has identified Indigenous people as a priority population for vaccination, regardless of where they live.

The province has been using the Ornge air ambulance service to fly vaccine supplies out to remote First Nations communities.

However Mamakwa said Indigenous people living in cities have largely been left behind.

He said Ford’s comments demonstrate the premier’s ignorance about how and where First Nations people live in the province.

“The premier is saying where I should be as a First Nations person to get the vaccine while not understanding, or even caring, where Indigenous people live in Ontario and I think that was very clear, ”he said.

He added it’s not up to the premier to decide which community he belongs to.

“I come from the community. I will not let Doug Ford and Minister Elliott separate me from the community where I’m from, or from the riding where I’m from because I am first and foremost a First Nations person, period, ”he said.

Mamakwa said would appreciate an apology “if he (Ford) can understand how his comments can undermine the work of so many Indigenous leaders.”

Ford has not apologized for the comments, despite calls from the opposition parties to do so.

His office said Thursday they have nothing to add to what he has already said.

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