Vancouver Island First Nations council calls on B.C. to act after first COVID-19 case on reserve
Published Friday, September 4, 2020 3:01PM PDT Last Updated Friday, September 4, 2020 5:22PM PDT
Judith Sayers, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, is pictured. She says the discovery of the COVID-19 case is a "critical situation.": Nov. 17, 2019 (CTV News)
CAMPBELL RIVER -- The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council (NTC) has called on the provincial government to act after the first case of COVID-19 was reported yesterday on Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation (MMFN) reserve land in Gold River.
The MMFN acting administrator, Rene Mitchell, told the Campbell River Mirror that the First Nation is monitoring the situation closely and implementing all necessary protocols to prevent community spread.
In a statement, NTC – which represents 14 Vancouver Island First Nations – called on Premier John Horgan and Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister Scott Fraser to support the council and First Nations in preventing the spread of the virus in their communities.
On June 9, the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council issued four requirements they wanted in place before the province opened up to Stage 3.
But it was not until the Heiltsuk, Tsilhqot'in and Nuu chah-nulth issued a collective statement on June 28 that the province started paying attention to those requirements.
It was not until mid-July that a table with B.C. and the three Nations was established, where they could talk about these four requirements: rapid testing, screening of people before coming into the territory, training and implementation of culturally safe contact tracing, and a communications protocol that would ensure Nuu-chah-nulth Nations know the location of a COVID-19 case that is close to their communities, so they could be properly prepared.
Judith Sayers, president of NTC, called the first case of COVID-19 on MMFN reserve a “critical situation,” and added, “having a damaging case of COVID on reserve is what we have been working against for some months now.”
“When the province opened to Stage 3 without our consent, the numbers of new COVID cases have tripled and even quadrupled daily and we knew it was a matter of time before one of our on-reserve members contracted the virus. Premier John Horgan and Minister Scott Fraser must mandate the tables we have set up so we can find immediate solutions to protect our members. We must not wait any longer and certainly do not want an outbreak in our communities before the province reacts,” said Sayers.
Mariah Charleson, vice president of NTC, said that despite all their efforts to have B.C. meet the Vancouver Island First Nations' basic health requirements, they have not been able to find viable solutions.
“We call on the government of B.C. and all its health authorities to work closely with NTC and our Nations to support our communities with what we need to prevent the spreading of this devastating virus to our members. This is a great opportunity for Premier Horgan and B.C. to step up to the challenge and practice true reconciliation; we demand action,” said Charleson.
“Let us work together so there are no more cases on reserve for Nuu-chah-nulth people,” said Sayers.