Members of the Canadian Armed Forces are headed to Bearskin Lake First Nation.

Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair says members of the Canadian Armed Forces Rangers will be on the ground to assist Bearskin Lake with their COVID-19 outbreak, and they completed their initial assessment of the community over the weekend.

Four armed forces members are expected to be in the community until at least January 23, and are expected to assist with delivering essential supplies, food and groceries and wood needed to heat homes.

Bearskin Lake declared a state of emergency due to an outbreak of COVID-19 infections on December 29. By January 3, 174 individuals had tested positive for the virus – representing about half of the community’s total population.

By the night of January 6, Bearskin Lake’s Health Director, Wes Nothing, announced that 196 people had tested positive for the illness. The community has a total population of around 400, the majority of which are under quarantine and isolation at this time.

Chief Lefty Kamenawatamin called on the federal government to bring in the military’s help on January 1, which was supported by Ontario’s Solicitor General Sylvia Jones on January 6.

Bearskin Lake First Nation is located 425 kilometres north of Sioux Lookout on Lake Michikan. It’s accessible by air throughout the year and by ice roads in the winter.

The community has also seen a $900,000 investment from the federal government to assist in the fight against COVID-19. This is in addition to the $3.9 million the community received in March of 2020 at the onset of the pandemic.

Indigenous Services Canada has also deployed a Rapid Response Team, primary care nurses, paramedics and environmental health officers to help the community with surge healthcare capacity during the outbreak.

Defence Minister Anita Anand adds members of the Canadian Armed Forces have and will continue to assist communities in need throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.