Chiefs implement regional lockdown of their communities
Tim Brody - Editor
Chiefs of 33 First Nation communities served by Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority (SLFNHA) passed a resolution on Dec. 30 to implement a regional lockdown of their communities to stop the spread of COVID-19. Guidance on the length of the lockdown will be provided by SLFNHA. On the COVID-19 information portion of its website, SLFNHA was reporting 64 active COVID-19 cases among the communities it serves as of Dec. 30.
“First Nations leadership across the North are taking action to protect their communities, and Doug Ford needs to act now to help our local health authorities stop the spread and support families through this Omicron wave,” said Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa in a Dec. 30 press release calling on the Ford government to urgently provide support to the communities.
“People are getting sick at a rapid rate, and they’re scared for their loved ones. Today the 33 Chiefs in Assembly directed the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority to take a lead role in developing guidelines for the coordinated approach to manage the Omicron variant across the region. They have implemented a regional lockdown within all 33 First Nations to begin immediately. The 33 First Nations require immediate access to short-term and long-term support and partnership on the ground to support the success of those efforts. The goal here is to stop the spread and save lives — and the government should get fully on board with that,” Mamakwa stated.
On Dec. 29, Bearskin Lake First Nation declared a state of emergency and, as of 7 p.m. on December 28, went into lockdown with only essential travel in and out of the community being allowed.
A copy of the declaration of emergency signed by Bearskin Lake First Nation Chief Lefty Kamenawatamin states that on December 28, Bearskin Lake First Nation became aware of, “a rapidly occurring outbreak of Covid-19 within their First Nation community that may have been related to travel into the community.”
“Bearskin Lake First Nation began conducting Covid-19 rapid testing on the early evening of December 28th that continued throughout the evening and into the morning of December 29, 2021. As of the early hours of December 29, 2021, there has been 24 positive Covid-19 test results which are the results of 10 households being tested to date. Covid-19 positive cases include infants, children, adults, and elders which is most likely due to the current lack of housing and the overcrowding of families residing in homes,” the declaration stated, adding that the community, “is expecting that the number of Covid-19 positive cases will dramatically increase over the coming hours and days.”
In a Dec. 30 news release, Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) shared, “The COVID-19 situation is changing quickly across NAN territory.
Currently, NAN is aware of 89 active cases in 9 NAN communities including Fort Albany, Ginoogaming, Moose Factory, Sandy Lake, Poplar Hill, Lac Seul, Bearskin Lake, Kashechewan and Marten Falls.”
NAN Grand Chief Derek Fox is calling on the governments of Canada and Ontario to provide an urgent response to support First Nations leaders who are overwhelmed by the steady increase of COVID-19 cases across NAN territory.
“The situation in Bearskin Lake First Nation and the sudden increases in positive cases in other communities is very alarming and requires an
urgent response. Our leaders need to see action with on-the-ground supports delivered to their communities without delay,” said Grand Chief Derek Fox. “Since the pandemic began we have worked closely with Ontario and Canada to keep our communities safe, and we need to maintain that effort. As a priority, we must ensure that the needs of each community are identified, and that leadership receives the immediate supports they require. The Omicron variant presents an extremely serious threat, and we hope that the spread of this virus can be contained as quickly as possible.”
NAN provided an update on the situation in Bearskin Lake in their Dec. 30 news release, informing, “At last report, there are 53 positive cases with community members under isolation in 25 homes.”
NAN shared that Bearskin Lake First Nation is in immediate need of:
- fuel, portable heaters, woodcutters and equipment to distribute wood to heat homes;
- water and food distribution to isolated community members;
- security and incident command assistance for Chief and council; and
- additional supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE).
“Many communities are losing their ability to care for their members and have exhausted their limited resources.
This includes basic needs like drinking water and food deliveries for those in isolation, wood and fuel for heat, and preventative measures to alleviate overcrowding and housing shortages that will help contain the spread of infection,” NAN informed.