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Indians get body bags with H1N1 kits

OTTAWA, Sept. 17 (UPI) -- Health Canada apologized Thursday for sending body bags along with H1N1 flu prevention and vaccine kits to some native communities.

"We regret the alarm that this incident has caused," Health Canada said a statement issued Thursday afternoon. "It is important to remember that our nurses are focused entirely on providing primary healthcare services under often-trying circumstances."

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However, the apology only mentioned the body bags sent to the Wasagamack First Nation, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported. The bags also were included in a shipment of hand sanitizers and face masks to the God's River First Nation tribe.

Jim Wolfe, director of First Nations and Inuit Health for Manitoba, issued his own apology to all tribes in Canada and shouldered the responsibility for upsetting tribal members.

"Given the unknown events that we may facing in the fall, we asked our nursing stations to stock up for three to four months. And unfortunately in this case we overestimated our requirements and that unfortunately caused the alarm we are seeing now," Wolfe said.

Some native leaders called for his resignation.

Chiefs of numerous bands throughout the province had issued statements Wednesday denouncing the response by Health Canada this week, the Toronto Star reported from Ottawa.

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"To me this is an ominous sign that the government is predicting a grim outcome," said Chief David McDougall of St. Theresa First Nation.

But Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. David Butler-Jones, told the Star the body bags were "totally unnecessary."

The Health Ministry also came under fire this year when it became public there was reluctance to send alcohol-based hand sanitizer to reservations where alcohol is banned over fear Indians would drink it.

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