Telephone Town Hall recap (April 22)

In the latest of the weekly Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) Telephone Town Hall series, MNO leadership continued to provide updates highlighting the federal, provincial, local and MNO response to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. The April 22 Telephone Town Hall outlined new Federal Government Supports for Post-Secondary Students, additional funding for the Métis Voyageur Development Fund, and updates on the processing of applications for the Interim COVID-19 Emergency Support Program.  We have also heard that more support for seniors and elders from the Federal Government is coming. We will provide updates as soon as more information becomes available.

Reminder on available COVID-19 resources

The MNO strongly encourages Citizens with urgent needs or concerns related to COVID-19 to utilize the new help line via email at COVIDhelp@metisnation.org or by calling the toll free line 1-800-263-4889. Citizens applying for emergency financial support can apply directly online at this link: 
https://covid.metisnation.org. COVID-19 related Fact Sheets are being updated on a weekly basis at this time and are available on the MNO website here: www.metisnation.org/covid-19.

Message to our Citizens

While reports on COVID-19 are continuously evolving, the advice from health authorities and leadership at this time remains the same: Physical distancing, practicing proper hygiene and self-isolating are critical in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and flattening the curve. Heightened hygiene measures include both thoroughly washing your hands and any frequently touched surfaces (door knobs, phones, mailboxes, etc.). Additionally, individuals are encouraged to wear face masks when out for essentials, as wearing a mask both protects those around you from any accidental sneezes/coughs, while also minimizing habits of frequent face-touching -- another recommended tactic in keeping healthy and safe.

MNO Volunteer Checklist

During the call the MNO Volunteer Checklist that was sent out to all citizens and employees through email was discussed. Following the guidelines in the checklist is particularly important for citizens who are going out in the community to volunteer for those who need check ins. The President thanked those who have been volunteering their time by calling elders and seniors in our communities to check in and see how they’re doing and acknowledged the initiatives of the Women’s Council and others in the community that are sewing masks for community members.

MNO Interim COVID-19 Support Program Update

The initial surge of applications for the MNO’s Interim COVID-19 Support Programs has slowed. At this time, we are receiving around 30 applications a day through the online application process as well as 30-40 through our COVID-19 helpline and email address. Over 1,100 applications have been received and the bulk are in the process of being reviewed by our staff.  Of those supports that have been approved for payment or paid out we have assisted approximately 300 Métis children!  To date, half of those applicants who have applied have been contacted by our support team. We thank you for your patience.  

Federal Supports for Post-Secondary Students

Frequently asked questions in all of our previous Town Hall Calls have been around what supports are available for post-secondary students and when more information will be coming. This week we finally got our answer. This week the Federal Government announced the Canada Emergency Student Benefit along with a host of other supports to help students who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The application process for this benefit will be similar to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, but is not online yet. This funding is part of a larger $9 billion aid package that the Government of Canada announced on April 22. Through this funding grant money for students including those volunteering this summer will be increased. They are also going to double the student grants for incoming students and are investing $291 million for expiring federal graduate research scholarships and post-doctorate fellowships. The Federal Government also announced that they will be investing an additional funds for eligible students. We are waiting to see what this funding will look like and will provide updates as more information becomes available.

MVDF Announcement

The Federal Government has also announced additional funding to help support for small and medium sized Indigenous businesses facing challenges and economic hardships due to COVID-19. The Government’s distinction’s based approach will see this money flow through Métis Capital Corporations including the MNO’s Métis Voyageur Development Fund (MVDF). The Federal funding announced will allow the MVDF to provide eligible Métis businesses with $40,000 in support. $30,000 of which will be in the form of an interest free repayable loan and $10,000 of which will be non-repayable. More information can be found on the MNO website here: https://bit.ly/2yQNpdM

Quarantine Creative

In order to emphasize and enhance social connections during this time of social distancing we’ve created a social media campaign designed to showcase the amazing art and creative pursuits of our MNO citizens and employees. If your beading, sewing, painting, drawing, or weaving during the quarantine we want to see it! We’d love to see what you’re up to during the quarantine and share your art with the world! Join us by tagging us on social media and using the hashtag #QuarantineCreative or by sending us a direct message on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Share your art with us and help us spread some positivity because we’re all in this together!

Harvesting Rights during COVID-19

We know how important being out on the land and the water is to our people and to our citizens in this regard. To be clear, at this time there are no restrictions on Crown Land Camping for MNO harvesters in their traditional territories. For those that live outside their territories or are without Harvest Certificates this is an issue of Métis mobility rights. This as an item already identified within the MNO-Ontario Framework Agreement on Harvesting and will be one for discussion. We ask that citizens approach harvesting as you did prior to COVID-19 by harvesting within your territories (when exercising your community’s rights as a holder of an MNO Harvester Certificate) or by hunting, fishing, or camping as per Ontario regulations when outside your territories.

As for Camp Closures, some townships, municipalities, cities, and conservation authorities have instituted restrictions or closures to some of the facilities they oversee in the interest of public safety. In the case of conservation authority lands, if a Harvester has questions or is experiencing challenges in accessing a previously used area they should follow up with their Captain of the Hunt who can provide them with more information on their specific situation. These public health measures have been put in place to help protect our families and communities. As we know Métis communities are at a higher risk for COVID-19 based on our own research around health outcomes so we need to be cognizant of the risks and mindful of the safety measures in place to help protect our loved ones. MNO is currently waiving harvester application and renewal fees as well as citizenship application fees at this time to make the process easier on everyone. We will continue to update as new information is provided and a harvesting communique is being prepared.

Posted: May 12, 2020

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