The Listuguj Mi’gmaq Government closed its doors on March 17, 2020. Since then, our day-to-day operations have been maintained, including the on-going delivery of programs and services, almost without interruption. This was made possible due to our government’s timely response to COVID-19, which was developed in February 2020, before the Public Health Agency of Canada announced COVID-19 as a public health risk.
We asked the CEO to explain the Emergency Response Plan and why it has been so successful.
He said, “the emergency response plan is a roadmap outlining how we should respond in any given situation. We tried to anticipate what could happen as the virus matures – and then created detailed answers based on our capacity and resources; successes of other governments; and legislation. This was then operationalized by the combined effort of the 8 Directors, the Unified Command, and the foundational work done by the Emergency Coordinator. It took a lot of people to make this happen.”
The objective of the emergency response plan is to: prevent fatalities and injuries; protect the environment and the community; maintain sustainability of programs buildings, stock, and equipment; and accelerate the eventual resumption of normal operations. It was created by gathering information, seeking different perspectives, examining best-practices and by setting forth a blueprint for action using management tools, administrative principles and matrix reporting.
“The best way to visualize the plan is to think of it as a jigsaw puzzle made of three components:
– Work plans: the 8 Directorate plans which fall under the overall “umbrella” of the LMG’s plan,
– Tactical plan: the LMG’s “umbrella” plan provides for the coordination between the 8 Directorates and sets standards, policies, and provides resources,
– Strategic plan: the Unified Command’s plan which determines priorities, direction, allocates personnel and resources, and synchronizes efforts across the organization and with other emergency organizations.
This led to the identification of 11 stages, each of which includes detailed steps, goals and objectives. The plan should be looked at as a “continuum” that allows us to move backwards and forwards, or to even jump stages, depending on the circumstances and the situation at hand. Each stage is defined by “trigger events” that tell us when to move onto the next stage. The plan has been very successful, so far, because we have always looked at as a flexible guide rather than a strict rule.”
The CEO explains that, more importantly, the emergency response plan has been successful for four main reasons:
- The three members of the Unified Command (the Director of Health, the Emergency Coordinator, and the CEO) took responsibility for the plan and its outcome. This led to many sleepless nights and long discussions amongst ourselves. However, this ensured that every step, every action, and every detail was thought out clearly.
- We implemented it “reasonably”, by listening to different voices and opinions, and accepting that we may need to change direction, especially when a mistake or a misstep occurs.
- We created a plan with the primary goals of protecting the health and safety of the community. But we also wanted to protect people’s normal rights and privileges. Thus, the plan had to be as minimally invasive as possible.
- We have put the work into it: we researched the changing state of affairs, we communicated with outside organizations to find out what is being done successfully, we gather evidence to make decisions objectively, and we documented every step that was taken. Emotion is an important part of life. But in a time of crisis, it is dispassionate, impartial, rational thought that is needed.
“The proof that our plan has been successful is that Listugujewaq have continued to receive high quality programs and services. People’s lives have not been negatively impacted by curfews, censorship, or serious lockdowns. Accurate and timely information has been communicated regularly. Shelter and food is readily available for all. And the LMG continues to provide a generous and safe work environment which allows almost 80% of its workforce to remain at home with full pay – during this time of emergency – while many other employers are terminating staff, laying them off, forcing them to use vacation or sick time, or accept a reduced pay.
In addition to these successes, our government has also developed new programs to serve community members such as: the LMG’s mental health initiative, the distribution of masks and hand sanitizers in public buildings, and prescription pick-up service through the Listuguj Community Health Service’s medical taxi program. Our efforts to instill social distancing, containment, and hygiene have, in general, worked – there has been no actual or presumptive cases. Listuguj’s public health has not been compromised but has actually been strengthened though the use of educational materials, preventative measures, and systematic review of LMG facilities.”