VICTORIA -- A coalition of more than 20 B.C. First Nations is calling on the provincial government to share the approximate location of COVID-19 cases with First Nations leaders.

The coalition says that sharing data on COVID-19 case locations could be “potentially life-saving” for their communities.

The Heiltsuk Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council and Tsilhqot’in National Government have filed an application to the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia to have the information shared.

The application poses that withholding information on COVID-19 case locations from B.C. First Nations violates Section 25 of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).

Section 25 of FIPPA compels “the head of a public body to disclose information relating to a risk of significant harm to people or the environment, or where disclosure is clearly in the public interest,” according to a summary on the B.C. government website.

“If COVID-19 proximate case information does not represent information about a risk of significant harm to our communities, we don’t know what does,” said Marilyn Slett, chief councillor of the Heiltsuk Nation in a release Tuesday.

The coalition says that its call for information sharing from the B.C. government is supported by the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association and BC Civil Liberties Association.

First Nations leaders add that sharing information about COVID-19 will help with the province’s goal of reconciliation, as well as assist First Nations with self-governing during the pandemic.

“B.C. has an ethical and moral duty to reconsider its refusal, and to share the requested information as a means to reduce the unacceptable risks faced by First Nations living in remote communities,” said Dr. Don Wilson, member of the Heiltsuk Nation in a statement Tuesday.

“This government to government information sharing request is absolutely reasonable and is vitally important for effective prevention of outbreaks which could lead to community spread. Better information allows for better decisions and responses to this public health emergency,” he said. 

The coalition, which represents more than 20 B.C. First Nations, has launched an online petition in support of their application for access to information on COVID-19 case locations.