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New West politicos join forces to help First Nations fight COVID-19

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New Westminster-Burnaby MP Peter Julian, Coun. Chuck Puchmayr, and Richmond-Queensborough MLA Aman Singh, from left, as well as New Westminster MLA Jennifer Whiteside (not shown) teamed up on a donation that saw 10,000 face masks sent to First Nations in British Columbia.

Local New Democrats from three levels of government teamed up with Key West Ford to send face masks to rural communities in Northern B.C.

New West Coun. Chuck Puchmayr, New Westminster-Burnaby MP Peter Julian, Richmond-Queensborough MLA Aman Singh and New Westminster MLA Jennifer Whiteside recently joined forces to ship 10,000 medical-grade face masks to five First Nations communities in B.C. The face masks were sent to the Ulkatcho government in Anahim Lake region, the Heiltsuk government in Bella Bella region, the Nazko government in the Quesnel region, the Canim Lake government and the Nuxalk Nation in the Bella Coola region.

“In solidarity, we want to acknowledge the extraordinary work and dedication of the band councils and their leadership teams for assisting their members during this very difficult time,” Julian said in a press release.

Puchmayr said he discovered there was a “real need” for face masks when he was speaking to a councillor with the Nuxalk Nation.

“From speaking to him, I realized that there was a real need. They had a huge outbreak,” he said. “Masks are more difficult and costlier to purchase in those remote areas. I thought, because we are so close to the ports, they are actually quite cost efficient. We were able to go in and order with Key West Ford. I think they ordered about 70,000 masks so we were able to purchase some at a really low price.”

Puchmayr said he hopes the donation will help the First Nations combat the COVID-19 pandemic. He thanked Key West Ford for its generous contribution to this initiative.

According to Puchmayr, his colleagues heard what he was doing and asked if they could jump in and help out, and he welcomed their support.

“The cost of the masks was $1,300 and the shipping was about $200,” he said. “This was all paid for by the two MLAs, the MP and myself. It was a four-way split.”

It’s not the first time New Westminster has helped out First Nations in B.C. during the pandemic, as the city previously sent face shields and “gallons and gallons” of hand sanitizer to some schools and health care centres, Puchmayr said.

“They were all quite overwhelmingly appreciative,” he said. “Certainly, the gesture is quite significant. … It (COVID) is really accelerating in some of these remote communities.”


Follow Theresa McManus on Twitter @TheresaMcManus