Chief’s Letter No. 2

In a continued effort to update you on the evolving COVID-19 pandemic health crisis, I will be writing to you regularly in the upcoming weeks. Thank you for the messages of appreciation and encouragement following my last message and for your continued support of our Emergency Response Control Group. This situation is unprecedented, and it is certainly not how any of us expected to begin our terms as your Council. It is in times like these that we truly realize what a strong, resilient and resourceful community we are.

As we all watch the numbers of reported cases and deaths increasing in Ontario and throughout the world, I cannot stress enough the importance of the preventative measures that have been put in place. As you can imagine, the responsibility of ensuring the safety and security of the First Nation is a heavy one, but it is not one that I shoulder alone. The success of our measures entirely depends on the ability of every single member’s response to this crisis. It may sound dramatic, but I implore you to behave as if every interaction and transaction has the capacity to transmit the virus. Is the visit or the exchange worth the health of you or your loved ones? Please, STAY HOME and limit your trips to essential errands, disinfect everything that enters your home, wash your hands, and do not touch your face.

There are now cases of COVID-19 reported in several First Nations. As of April 6, 2020 Six Nations has reported eight cases, Onion Lake Cree Nation is now reporting its third case, and Eabametoong First Nation has reported its first case despite the strict self-isolation and curfew that was imposed; this is the first case reported in a remote community.

We are not immune! If recommendations for self-isolation and closure of non-essential businesses are not taken seriously in Pikwakanagan, your leadership will not hesitate to enforce them with the assistance of outside authorities. However, I am pleased to report that, for the most part, the severity of the situation is well understood in Pikwakanagan and most have been responsive and respectful. Chi Miigwetch.

The COVID-19 crisis is further illuminating the systemic issues in First Nations that have long been brought to the attention of Canada’s political leadership and Canadians in general. While COVID-19 may infect indiscriminately, the resources allocated, and the response effort may not be equal or adequate for First Nations. The Assembly of First Nations and the Chiefs of Ontario continue to lobby Canada for increased resources, which will be desperately needed in First Nations with more limited resources than Pikwakanagan. Pikwakanagan will continue to provide political support to other First Nations and Political Territorial Organizations such as Chiefs of Ontario, the Anishinabek Nation and the Assembly of First Nations in their efforts to secure adequate response to this crisis.

Once again, we are blessed to have a community that is as resilient and resourceful as we are. Do not take this for granted. We will need to take all the necessary precautions to ensure that we are able to maintain our health and wellness as individuals and as a community. We have the opportunity to emerge from this crisis a leader and a model to surrounding communities and First Nations.

Please consult our Pikwakanagan Facebook pages for regular updates from myself and the Emergency Response Control Group.

There are many resources available online, but I would like to share with you a short list of the ones that we are consulting regularly:

https://www.coo-covid19.com

https://www.anishinabek.ca/covid-19

https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html

https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/ntnl-scrt/crtcl-nfrstrctr/esf-sfe-en.aspx

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019- nCoV/

The government of Canada has also developed an app that you can download on to your smart phone or access in a web browser: https://ca.thrive.health

The 3 Nations (Tahltan, Kaska and Tlingit) in BC has been maintaining and excellent collection of resources including some infographics: https://3nations.org/infographics/