Manitoba Hydro rejects MKO allegations on COVID-19 at Keeyask

Utility calls claims by First Nations Organization patently false

Manitoba Hydro is setting the record straight regarding inaccurate and false claims and allegations made by the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) in their news release of November 4.

Contrary to claims made by MKO, Manitoba Hydro’s Pandemic Response Plan has been in place since the spring. That plan has been followed with the following additional precautionary actions:

  • The testing of all on-site staff at Keeyask for COVID-19 starting on October 26, and concluding on November 1.
  • The implementation of all additional measures as recommended by Public Health officials on November 1. Most of these measures were well underway before public health released its guidance.
  • The implementation of a temporary workforce reduction as a precautionary measure on October 31. This plan was shared with our Keeyask Cree Nation (KCN) partners earlier today.
  • Continuing to support the pandemic plans of our KCN partners and neighbouring communities. This includes providing resources and funding to isolate all workers returning to First Nation communities for 14 days as per their own pandemic protocols.

Throughout the pandemic the plan has been adjusted to reflect new information, pandemic conditions and public health guidance. A summary of the Keeyask Pandemic Response Plan, including the latest changes, is posted on https://www.keeyask.com. This has been publicly available to workers, First Nations partners, and the public since the pandemic began.

Measures implemented earlier as part of the Keeyask Pandemic Response plan:

  • Instituting mandatory mask wearing in all common spaces;
  • Enhanced cleaning of high-touch surfaces throughout the camp;
  • Daily crew screening prior to the start of the workday;
  • Daily information updates on COVID cases have been and will continue to be posted in common areas of the camp to ensure all workers are fully informed about the current status of the virus at the project;
  • Continuing communication with workers about the importance of the fundamentals (mask-wearing, social distancing, and hand cleaning).

Upon learning of the first positive COVID-19 test result on October 25, Manitoba Hydro took immediate additional actions at site including:

  • Initiating testing of all workers at the Keeyask Project site on October 26 (Regarding testing at Keeyask, Intrinsic Analytics of Winnipeg, contracted by Manitoba Hydro, conducts a PCR screening test. If a “not clear” is detected, the individual is immediately placed in isolation and public health is notified, and they take care and control of the individual. Public health then administers either a point-of-care test (POCT) – quick test or a PCR test processed at the Cadham Provincial Lab to confirm the “not clear” result. The technology used at Keeyask for initial screening tests is Health Canada approved and is the same PCR technology used by provincial public health officials);
  • Closing common areas at the project’s camp, including the movie theatre, gymnasium, and the site lounge in order to help minimize the spread of the virus on October 27;
  • Stopping the movement of inbound workers to the site on October 30, with exception of a small number of staff required to maintain project operations. Those workers will be isolated and tested prior to being allowed to travel to site;

“Few organizations have undertaken the scale and scope of measures we have, as fast as we have, and we will continue to do so based on public health guidance,” said Jay Grewal, Manitoba Hydro’s President and CEO. “Claims and allegations that are categorically incorrect, is frankly, irresponsible and misleading, particularly when we have a collective obligation to uphold and protect the safety and well-being of all site workers and the neighbouring communities.”

The utility continues to have open, frequent, and ongoing communication with all its partners when new information becomes available, and rejects claims that suggest otherwise. Manitoba Hydro provides daily updates to all stakeholders including First Nations partners, site employees, and the public, and shares new information as it becomes available. The utility has also held weekly pandemic meetings with its partner communities since late spring.

Current case numbers and other information are available on Manitoba Hydro’s website. Information updates are also posted daily at the Keeyask site and communicated to contractors on the project.

“Our engagement with the Keeyask partners has been ongoing since the start of this pandemic,” said Grewal. “As we learned more about COVID-19, we updated our pandemic response measures engaged all our partners in tabletop planning sessions and maintained open lines of communication.”

As has been reported in the media and through public health authorities COVID-19 cases have occurred more broadly in the communities northern Manitoba. Spread of the virus in the north was widely reported in the week leading up to the first positive test at Keeyask. Manitoba Hydro has taken deliberate and measured steps to contain the spread of the virus at Keeyask, to enhance tracing and testing, and to limit and isolate personnel coming into and exiting out of the site.

“Collectively, our focus, as well as that of our First Nations partners, must be to accurately inform, advise and educate workers at site as well as those in neighbouring communities on what we are doing to contain and limit the spread of COVID-19 and how are we are working closely with public health officials, and acting on their guidance and expertise in this regard,” added Grewal. “Communicating anything other than that, is akin to engaging in mis and disinformation at a time when facts are needed.”

Manitoba Hydro will continue to work with public health officials to implement any additional recommendations, in addition to measures already in place.

For more information, please contact:

Bruce Owen – Media Relations Officer
204-794-8270
bowen@hydro.mb.ca