Edition 12: COVID-19 Bulletin for First Nations and Indigenous Peoples, June 12, 2020

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#BreakTheChain Issue No. 12 June 11th 2020

COVID-19 Information for First Nations Staying the Course – and Staying Safe this Summer This is the twelfth in a weekly series, prepared as a free informational tool by Bimaadzwin Inc. Updated as of June 11th, 2020

COVID-19 and the ongoing outbreak.. Ontario Cases Dropping.. .. But not in the West of Ontario.. Six Signs the Pandemic is Not Finished.. Online Accessibility during COVID-19..

In this Issue…

Roadblocks Lifted on Manitoulin.. Mining as Usual?.. Food Traditions Critical in Saskatchewan.. Cases in Youth Rising.. WHO Walks Back Comments.. and, How to Have Friends and Family Over Safely this Summer..

Ongoing COVID-19 Outbreak

There have been over 7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the world, with over 404,000 deaths. In Canada, there are currently 96,653 confirmed cases– with 7,897 deaths across the country (June 10). Cases: 06.03.2020

All regions of Canada are enforcing social distancing regulations. People are encouraged to stay home, except for going out for necessities like groceries or medication. While going outside to exercise, do not use parks or playgrounds – stick to trails and footpaths. Stay at least 2m (6ft) away from those who do not live with you while out exercising. People are encouraged to not visit each other’s houses – and to not allow visitors into their own homes. Although this distancing is difficult for everyone, it is a necessary step to protect the health and safety of everyone. This is a challenging time for everyone. If you need to talk to someone – the Hope for Wellness Helpline (1-855-242-3310) is available in English, French, Cree, Ojibway, and Inuktitut. Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868) is also available for those 5-29 years old.

The province of Ontario has been reporting that the number of new cases of COVID-19 daily has dropped to less than 300 for the third day in a row this last week – which could mean that social distancing regulations have been working, and that the virus has started to wane.

Ontario’s Cases Slowing

This comes too after Ontario announced that the number of resolved or recovered cases this past Tuesday was 550, while the number of new cases was only 251. These numbers are important to help track the spread of the virus in the province – and to have a better idea about where, and how the virus is spreading. Although these numbers are promising – we are not out of the pandemic yet – and they should not be taken to mean that things are going back to normal. It is because people are taking the pandemic seriously and are staying at home, and are not travelling, that we are seeing these numbers drop – as you’ll see in the next articles, it’s very important for everyone to keep their guard up!

Wabaseemoong First Nation – in the westernmost part of Ontario, near Kenora – has reported its first cases of COVID-19. While many First Nations in the region had enacted strict travel regulations over the last twelve weeks – as a measure to protect remote communities from the spread of the virus – it continues to be difficult to contain COVID-19 entirely.

Slow Rise in Ontario’s West

Travel between Ontario and Manitoba in the region has been limited – and both provinces have asked that people refrain from crossing for any reason, including if they have family or property on the other side. While this is true, many remote communities rely on regional centres for supplies, groceries, prescriptions, and other necessities – and had to travel to centres east in Ontario like Kenora, Dryden and Thunder Bay. It appears that the case in Wabaseemoong was contracted while the individual was travelling to Thunder Bay. For now, other communities in the area have put in place a strict two-week lockdown for their members in response to this case – in the hopes of stopping any community spread in the region immediately. It is critical that people who can avoid travelling to remote communities do so, and always reach out to the leadership in the community to find out about the current travel restrictions if you do have to visit for work or family reasons.

As we roll into the twelfth week of the COVID-19 pandemic – and the various levels of quarantine that come with it – many of us are starting to feel some ‘quarantine fatigue’ settling in. Along with some restrictions loosening, it might be easy for some to conclude that the COVID-19 pandemic is ending!

Five Signs the COVID-19 Pandemic Is Not Over

However – as the public health officials would be quick to remind us – it’s far from over. Here are some reminders that COVID-19 is still something to be concerned about, and to continue to take extra care for. 1.

The biggest global spike of cases in a single day – even though some areas in Canada are reporting less daily cases; we just saw over 139,000 cases on a single day this past Sunday all around the world – the highest yet.


New Brunswick – one of Canada’s smallest provinces was the first to start relaxing restrictions; however, a second wave is forcing some things to close again. It is an important reminder that you should continue to socially distance, and stay at home when you can – no matter what is open!


Increase in younger cases – Health officials have seen an increase of younger people with COVID-19; especially in the Hamilton and Toronto areas.


There is still no vaccine – while an unprecedented effort is underway, we’re still a ways away from the development of a vaccine; as we get closer more information will be available, but for now there is no accurate timeline.


Possible second wave – if we open too early, and too many of us react to our ‘quarantine fatigue’, it could lead to a large second wave according to Dr. Theresa Tam.

Even as the weather gets warmer – it’s critical that all Canadians keep to the recommendations and stay at home when possible.

Online Accessibility Questioned During COVID-19

Much of the conversation around the impacts of COVID-19 is about how we have been able to move so much of our work and our lives online in these last few weeks. Today, grandparents that hadn’t used a computer much a few years ago are now well versed in the art of Zoom meeting backgrounds – and a growing number of businesses have announced that their workers will be able to choose to continue working from home, even after things do start going back to normal. However, what some people in urban centres take for granted – like meeting on Zoom, applying for CERB online, or ordering takeout through Uber Eats – are not tools that are available to many First Nations communities. In BC, some 75% of First Nations communities still do not have broadband – and in some remote communities in Ontario, Manitoba, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut – internet connection can be both incredibly spotty and prohibitively expensive. We are guilty of this ourselves – sharing a number of internet-based resources, and assuming that most people can access them – but this is not always the case! Canada does not have a national broadband strategy – which means that the expansion of internet connectivity is a question of business case, and not necessity. The COVID-19 crisis has forced an important conversation about the future of connectivity and accessibility in Canada.

Roadblocks Lifted on Manitoulin

The COVID-19 pandemic saw a number of First Nations communities install roadblocks and checkpoints at the borders of their territories to restrict the number of visitors to the community, and to screen both visitors and members for COVID-19 as they enter. These travel restrictions and often volunteer-run roadblocks have been championed as being an important part in slowing the spread of COVID-19 to First Nations communities across the country. Communities on the Manitoulin Islands – like M’Chigeeng First Nation – enacted roadblocks in early May to slow the possible spread of COVID-19 to the community. Soon, others in the region banded together to form the Manitoulin COVID-19 Leadership Coordination Committee that saw a coordinated effort to ensure there was no spread onto the islands entirely. With the pandemic easing, and now being largely concentrated in the Toronto region – the committee is moving to lift the travel ban. However, as the pandemic continues to unfold – it is likely that the committee will follow the cases closely, and re-enact any closures if it’s in the interest of the safety of Manitoulin Island communities.

Ontario’s reaction to the COVID-19 crisis has been critiqued by many; including a new letter from legal professors in Toronto that are arguing that the province should not be allowing mining operations to continue as usual through the crisis.

Mining as Usual?

On one hand – the fly-in fly-out nature of many mining jobs in the province has put a number of remote First Nations communities at a higher risk for spread. This includes the example of the North American Palladium mine north of Thunder Bay, which was directly linked to the spread of COVID-19 to the remote community of Gull Bay First Nation on Lake Nipigon – which shares an access highway with the mine. On another hand – the legal professors are arguing that the province should not be issuing any new mining licenses, or any new mining claims at this time – as First Nations leaders are in no position to react to these projects and contribute meaningful input or consultation – as a result of the efforts being put towards COVID-19. The advancement of any licenses or claims at this time would be detrimental to the neighbouring communities; because no community is in a place to address these issues at this time. Ontario is being encouraged to slow or stop mining activities – especially any licensing or processing any claims – until the COVID-19 pandemic is under control, and meaningful engagement can happen.

English River First Nation in Saskatchewan is showing the importance of food traditions during the COVID-19 crisis. Back in March – before COVID-19 ever started spreading in the northwest region of the province – hunters and trappers from the community went out on the land to gather meat for the community.

Food Traditions Prove Essential in North West Saskatchewan

The community caught enough meat that once it was prepared it was sent out to all 200 houses in the community, first by prioritizing the Elders and then everyone else; and even some frozen meat was sent to a regional food bank for neighbouring municipalities. Members were proud that the nation came together and provided for everyone – even before the pandemic became a pressing emergency for the community. COVID-19 did eventually make its way to English River – but it was contained to only one household; and although there were fifteen family members living there – it only spread to a handful of people before being resolved. The nation went under a strict quarantine for those weeks after the case was confirmed in the community – but everyone in the community was certain that they at least had enough good food for those challenging weeks. The COVID-19 crisis demonstrated a food insecurity challenge for everyone in the northwest Saskatchewan region during emergencies like these; but the current lockdown in English River emphasized the nation’s strong relationship to the land, its traditions of gifting and sharing, and how these continue to be essential fir survival.

Public Health Officials in the Ontario are turning their eyes towards the younger age groups – notably the 18-30 year old’s – who, they say, are helping to drive the transmission of COVID-19 in many of the province’s hotspots. It’s not clear where they are getting infected, which is hurting efforts to help slow the spread.

Cases Rising in Young People

It appears that after officials spent the first weeks of this epidemic targeting information to the most vulnerable populations – especially those over 65 – younger people may have felt more protected going out in public, which has led to an increase of cases in their age group. This comes after public outrage at a large group of mostly young people gathering at Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto on May 23rd – to which many younger people admitted to being more relaxed with restrictions, as a result of their age making them less at risk. Experts are encouraging the province to increase not only testing – but contact tracing to try to figure out where the spread of the virus is happening – in order to reduce transmission in all age groups.

WHO Walks Back ‘Very Rare’ Comments

The World Health Organization is walking back comments that the spread of COVID-19 by those who do not show any symptoms is considered ‘very rare’ – given that the research behind this is extremely limited, and there continues to be evidence of people spreading the virus without showing any symptoms. Although there is a lot of research being done on how the virus spreads from person-to-person, and if someone who does not have any symptoms might still be able to carry and spread the virus – although there remains no conclusions, and the data is not showing any definitive direction. What is known is that COVID-19 does spread by small droplets from a person’s nose or mouth, and that it does spread from person to person. The best way to protect yourself and others is to wear a mask while out in public, and to stay at least six feet (two metres) away from other people. It is critical that everyone try their best to follow these recommendations – especially as more people want to spend time outside in the warmer weather.

Wearing a mask while out in public – especially in situations where you might not be able to socially distance, like on transit or at the grocery store – is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19

Wear a Mask – Best Way to Protect Everyone

Use Link Below! The Government of Canada has put together a short video about how to use and clean a non-medical face covering properly that you can check out here: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/video/covid-19wear-non-medical-mask-face-covering-properly.html

As some provinces start easing the restrictions on social gatherings – some people are starting to ask themselves how can they have friends or family over to their house this summer – while still making sure everyone stays safe. Here are some tips for getting together with a limited number of people this summer:

How to Have Family and Friends Over This Summer

Outside v. Inside – Researchers believe that open and airy spaces makes the transmission of COVID-19 more difficult, and social distancing easier to practice. Consider replacing your dinner get-together with an outside BBQ – but make sure only one person is cooking and serving! Establish Distance and Size Before – It can be easy to forget about distancing when seeing people we haven’t for a while – so make sure to set out chairs and other spaces beforehand; and make sure to not invite more people than are allowed at gatherings in your province! Bring Your Own Stuff – Hosts should ask that people bring their own plates, cutlery, food and drinks – or to get disposable options for the gathering. It’s best that not share things for now, and this just makes it easier for when it’s time to clean up to make sure that everyone is staying safe. Using the bathroom is OK – experts say that using the bathroom is not a likely place to come into contact with COVID-19. It’s important to clean your bathroom before guests come – but so long as they’re washing their hands – there’s no problem letting someone use the bathroom! It’s OK to still say NO – You don’t have to feel obliged to attend any gatherings, or to host them at your house – the safest gathering right now is still no gathering. No matter what you decide to do – stay safe and stay clean – and enjoy the summer!

Miigwetch This information has been brought to you as a free public service by:

The content of this presentation is for informational purposes only. Those who may have come into contact with COVID-19, or who have symptoms must self-isolate and call their health authority. This presentation was developed to assist First Nation citizens and governments in understanding and responding to the growing crisis. Information contained in this presentation is accurate as of June 11th, 2020.

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