Several leaders within the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan are condemning President Glen McCallum for reportedly flouting COVID-19 rules, with some calling for his resignation.
“He put other people in jeopardy. He should resign,” said Jim Durocher, president of the Métis local branch in Ile-a-la-Crosse, Sask.
“This is a big thing. He should have known better. Personally, I think he needs to resign,” MN-S Sen. Nora Cummings said.
McCallum was not available for an interview, but said in a Facebook post Tuesday afternoon that many of the allegations against him are false. He urged critics to focus on unity during the pandemic.
The MN-S expressed similar sentiments in a news release late Tuesday afternoon.
Last Thursday and Friday, McCallum attended MN-S meetings inside Waskesiu’s Hawood Inn. McCallum had been tested for COVID-19 two days earlier, but had not received his result.
According to two senior MN-S members at the meeting, as well as the owner of the Hawood Inn, McCallum did not wear a mask and ignored repeated requests to take that precaution, and others.
His positive test was announced at a meeting Friday, which was adjourned, according to the MN-S.
Those at the meeting were tested and placed in isolation. An official said several are now exhibiting symptoms.
The Hawood has remained closed for several days of deep cleaning, and is expected to open Friday. Owner Nancy Wood said it will cost the business tens of thousands of dollars, and she wants the MN-S or McCallum to pay for it.
‘Lack of respect’: Durocher
Critics say McCallum should have either cancelled the meetings or attended remotely via video.
Durocher sent a letter Tuesday to McCallum and the MN-S expressing his disappointment. Attending the meeting, especially without a mask, shows a “complete lack of respect and arrogance on your part,” stated the letter.
Durocher said Métis leaders have worked for decades to improve the lives of their people, but warned of a possible “negative backlash against us for this unprofessional action on your part.”
Cummings said she was shocked by McCallum’s actions. She said it’s particularly disrespectful toward elders, who suffer far higher rates of complications and death if infected with COVID-19.
“We can’t just sit back and say, ‘Oh, it was just a mistake.’ This is scary,” Cummings said.
She thinks the hotel owner deserves compensation, but said McCallum should pay personally. She said forcing the MN-S to pay for his mistake would further hurt Métis people across Saskatchewan.
Derek Langan, the MN-S director in the Yorkton area, stopped short of demanding McCallum’s resignation, but said Métis people should think twice before re-electing McCallum next spring.
“This is very poor leadership. It’s such a serious lack of judgment,” Langan said.
‘Inaccurate reporting’: McCallum
McCallum has previously said that no one told him to isolate following his test Tuesday. In his Facebook statement, McCallum said Durocher was wrong to rely on “inaccurate reporting” and “gossip” in the media.
McCallum said the criticism and shaming could cause others to fear getting tested. McCallum urged everyone to unite in the fight against COVID-19.
“I would never knowingly risk the health and well-being of our citizens and their businesses,” McCallum said in the statement.
In its media release, the MN-S said it is trying to reach out to the hotel’s owner. It said the number of people in the meeting room was always under the maximum COVID-19 protocol of 30.
McCallum left the meeting immediately upon receiving news of his diagnosis, the MN-S said. It said participants and hotel staff were all informed within 30 minutes.
“Please get tested even if, like me, you are asymptomatic and are not known to have contact with anyone exposed to COVID-19,” McCallum said in the news release.
At a media briefing in Regina Tuesday afternoon, Premier Scott Moe was asked if McCallum or the MN-S should be investigated by health authorities.
Moe said he won’t talk about individual cases, but urged everyone to follow public health laws and advice.
“If it’s decided that it’s necessary, there are active investigations underway.”