Kiiwetinoong MPP and Opposition Critic for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Sol Mamakwa, says Ontario Premier Doug Ford has been ‘ignoring’ First Nations and their calls for support to contain the spread of COVID-19.

“Premier Doug Ford should have been there, working with First Nations during this crisis.  He should have been providing extra support and coordination to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in First Nations.”

“We have asked for his help, but months of asking fell on deaf ears. Doug Ford’s lack of second-wave planning has left our communities vulnerable and in a critical situation.”

“I want to commend the local health authorities, health centres, public health units, and communities in their efforts to contain the virus throughout this crisis.  But I also want to call out Doug Ford’s absence,” said Mamakwa, in a prepared statement.

In March, shortly after Ontario’s State of Emergency went into effect, Mamakwa demanded more support for First Nation communities, as they regularly deal with significant social issues as it is – like overcrowding and the lack of clean water - without the threat of the Coronavirus to compound them.

“Infectious diseases are especially devastating for First Nation communities. The government tells people to wash their hands, but it’s hard to do without clean running water. The government tells people to self-isolate, but how do you do that when there are 10 or 12 people living in the home?”

The federal government is aware that no drinking water is certainly an issue for those who are fighting against COVID-19. Indigenous Services Canada’s COVID-19 information page recommends First Nation community members to:

“If you do not have access to running water, wash your hands in a large bowl and then throw out the water from the handwashing bowl after each individual use.”

Since COVID-19 is not known to spread through water, members can use water under a boil water advisory to wash your hands and for personal hygiene. But water under a do not use advisory is not suitable for any use, and hand sanitizer must be used instead.

Across Canada, northwestern Ontario has the highest concentration of long-term drinking water advisories. Of the 61 advisories remaining, 20 of them can be found in the Kenora District.

“We have called on Ford to support First Nations schools to keep students and staff safe. We have called on him to prevent the virus from spreading in the North and in communities that do not have the resources needed to contain the virus on their own,” added Mamakwa.

“Ford must call on the Chief Medical Officer to work together with First Nations to prevent the outbreak of tragedy in our communities, before it’s too late.”

On September 18, Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority reported 5 positive cases in Kasabonika Lake First Nation, all from the same social bubble. The Northwestern Health Unit reported a case in the Dryden / Red Lake area later in the day. On September 20, the NWHU reported 2 additional cases in the Sioux Lookout region.

SLFNHA says one of the additional cases is in Kasabonika Lake, bringing their total to 6 active cases for the remote fly-in community. The additional two cases are in Sandy Lake First Nation and Pikangikum First Nation.

Staff say all of the individuals are self-isolating and doing well, and contact tracing has commenced in all 3 communities to detect any potential spread.

Mamakwa notes that as well as the 8 cases in our area, there is an additional two cases in the Moose Factory community, in the Cochrane district.

SLFNHA recommends all residents to assume COVID-19 is spreading within your community, and to always practice preventative measures such as social distancing, wearing a mask, washing your hands and staying home if you’re sick.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or you think you may have been exposed to the virus, contact your local assessment centre or nursing station as soon as possible, and immediately self-isolate.

For more information:
SLFNHA tackling 8 cases of COVID-19 in area
First Nation communities ‘especially vulnerable’ to COVID-19, Mamakwa