by Phil Ambroziak

COVID-19 knows no boundaries and neither do efforts to stop the coronavirus in its tracks.

Recently, leaders from municipalities throughout the Northwest as well as nearby First Nations and Métis communities bonded together to establish a Regional Incident Command Centre in Beauval. The purpose is to keep all residents in that part of the province abreast of all pertinent information about the coronavirus, and ways, as a region, they can work together to keep everyone safe and healthy.

Commanding the centre is former Churchill MP Rick Laliberte. He said the decision to launch a regional centre from which information could be shared across the board was a logical one based on what each community was already doing in response to COVID-19.

“Each community responded to the situation in their own ways and at different levels,” Laliberte told Northern Pride. “We have never faced anything like COVID-19 before, but, seeing as Beauval was already equipped with an incident centre to response to such things as forest fires or community evacuations, it made sense to do something like this.”

Using guidelines put in place by the Saskatchewan Health Authority and the World Health Organization, northern leaders were called together recently to come up with a pandemic plan that could be shared not only with northern municipalities such as Beauval, Ile-a-la Crosse, Buffalo Narrows, La Loche and more, but also – as noted – with Métis communities and First Nations.

“The virus recognizes no boundaries, and neither do we,” Laliberte continued. “As we continue to coordinate our efforts, we’ll be reaching out to nearby resort villages, ranches, the nearby Bible camp, all the little communities and homesteads in the region – from the smallest community to the largest.”

According to Nap Gardiner, who heads up the centre’s technical team, it’s important for everyone to be on the same page.

“They (northern leaders) recognize our communities, whether they be First Nations, Métis, or municipalities, must find ways to create the best possible results with the scant resources we have locally and regionally,” Gardiner explained. “And, the leaders feel they need to reach out to people and share what they are doing at this point.”

Each day at 3 p.m., residents throughout the Northwest are welcome to take part in a conference call originating from the centre which provides up-to-date COVID-19 news, as well as any other important information that must be shared with the public. It’s also an opportunity for residents to share concerns or to ask any questions they may have.

“This is a relationship that is continually evolving,” stated Ile-a-la Crosse mayor Duane Favel. “It’s important to get the information out there and in a timely manner and, so far, our efforts have been well received. Things are going exceptionally well in terms of being able to keep everyone in the loop. Not all communities have the capacity to put people in place when it comes to making phone calls to ask for assistance. Now there is a team in place willing to do this sort of thing for the whole region.”