Vancouver Island First Nation 'outraged' after MLA announces COVID-19 cases
Tsartlip First Nation Chief Don Tom is pictured on June 25, 2020: (CTV News)
VICTORIA -- The Tsartlip First Nation (TFN) is voicing its anger towards a local MLA and nation member who made a social media post claiming that the community would be receiving COVID-19 vaccines due to an ongoing outbreak.
The nation says that the outbreak ended in February and that the social media post made by Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, on Tuesday went against the nation's decision to keep the COVID-19 cases under wraps over concerns of racism.
Since the beginning of 2021, some Vancouver Island First Nations have experienced racism after announcing COVID-19 cases.
"Tsartlip has witnessed the cruel racism that our relatives of the Cowichan Tribes experienced and we chose to not subject Tsartlip members to this and kept our outbreak status private," said Tsartlip First Nation Chief Don Tom in a release Thursday.
"Had MLA Olsen picked up the phone to give me a call, he would be aware of the sensitive nature of this topic in our community," he said.
The release, entitled "Tsartlip First Nation is outraged after MLA makes public statement," says the outbreak began towards the end of January. A shelter-in-place order was then issued on Feb. 8.
While community members are being asked to stay at home, Tom notes that the last positive COVID-19 test result was received on Feb. 6.
"To be clear, Tsartlip First Nation currently has no active cases of COVID-19," he said.
"MLA Olsen’s public statement is highly offensive, and grossly oversteps the bounds of an MLA. Tsartlip has a right to self-determination, we cannot have an MLA misrepresenting our First Nation and taking liberties to make public statements without consulting Tsartlip," he said.
The nation called on Olsen to publicly apologize to the community Thursday, saying that some members had grown anxious about their social well-being since the announcement was made.
On Thursday afternoon, the Vancouver Island MLA issued an apology letter to the Tsartlip First Nation.
"This morning I called Chief Don Tom and gave my unreserved apology for my public communication regarding the recent public health challenges facing our community and the measures being taken to protect us from the COVID-19 pandemic," he wrote.
"Please accept this letter as my unreserved apology to you and to every member of our community. It is not my role as the Member of the Legislative Assembly to speak on behalf of the community in this way," he said.
Olsen adds that he did not intend to create any additional anxiety for members of TFN or misrepresent the COVID-19 situation in the community.
Moving forward, the MLA says he will leave communication matters to the nation's chief and council, as he should have in this instance.
"To all my relatives and friends in Tsartlip, I am sorry," wrote Olsen. "I am happy that our community is receiving protection from this horrible virus that has taken a toll on all of us. I meant no harm to be done to anyone in our community."
The initial social media statement and apology can be read in full below: