'Treat everyone equally': Island First Nation faces spike in racism as COVID-19 cases climb
VICTORIA -- If a surge in COVID-19 cases wasn't bad enough, a Vancouver Island First Nation says discrimination is spreading too.
According to Cowichan Tribes leadership, a spike in racism aimed at its members has come along with a new transparent approach to COVID-19.
Cowichan Tribes, which is located in the Duncan area, is the largest First Nation band in B.C.
Recently, B.C.'s First Nations Health Authority has begun releasing specific COVID-19 data. This includes information on a widening community cluster amongst Cowichan Tribes membership.
There are currently 70 cases amongst the population as of Monday.
Band leadership say members have faced an onslaught of discrimination since the community cluster was announced.
"Our members have a right to services, have a right to shop, have a right to employment," said Tribes councillor Stephanie Atleo.
Online comments have called for First Nation's members to be terminated from jobs in the community.
Members also say that some medical appointments have been cancelled after they were asked for their ethnic background and connection to the First Nation.
"Residency on Cowichan Tribes is inherently a race-based question," said North Cowichan mayor, Al Seibring.
"Stop it. Treat everyone equally," he said.
Spotting racist comments online, Mayor Seibring took to Facebook to condemn the misguided posts.
In an open letter, Seibring slammed the derogatory comments and lauded the First Nation's transparent approach.
Cowichan Tribes leadership say they have imposed a shelter-at-home order to quell the spread of the disease between households.
The order remains in effect until Jan. 22.
The self-imposed rule is an extra layer of protection and in no way means members cannot go about daily tasks in the public.