Coastal First Nations communities are asking members to take the safe and necessary actions required to prevent the spread of the highly-infectious coronavirus. Community members are being asked to stay at home, wash their hands regularly, check on their loved ones, and keep a safe distance from others.
Anita Hall, Emergency Operations Centre Liaison for the Heiltsuk Nation, says new measures to protect members are being put in place daily. Physical distancing to prevent the spread of the virus can be a challenge for small communities, says Hall, but it’s worth it. “An important part of our culture is spending time with family and friends, so it’s very hard,” she explains. “But as long as we continue to practice these measures, when and if the virus does come to our community, we’ll be very prepared.”
As coastal Nations roll out COVID-19 response measures, emergency planners in remote CFN communities face other challenges as well. Limited healthcare services, food security and the risk of contagion in close-knit, inter-generational families are just a few. With Elders being among those most at risk, the preservation of Indigenous culture is a huge concern.
“[We’ve] gone through a great loss in the last year of many Elders,” Haida Nation President Gaagwiis Jason Alsop told CBC radio last week. “To experience that kind of trauma again would be devastating to our community.” The Haida Nation declared a State of Emergency on March 23 that restricts all but essential travel to and from Haida Gwaii communities. In a Facebook video, Alsop urged members to stay at home. “Take this as an opportunity to learn and grow and pursue passions in isolation with your loved ones. Together we can save lives.”
The following provides a list of measures taken by communities throughout the North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii. These will be updated as the situation evolves.
COVID-19 MEASURES IN CFN COMMUNITIES
Council of the Haida Nation
- A Local State of Emergency has been called by the Council of the Haida Nation, Skidegate Band Council, Old Massett Village Council, Village of Queen Charlotte, Village of Port Clements, Village of Massett, and Regional Districts D and E.
- The CHN are working on a coordinated, all-island pandemic plan with each community.
- A travel advisory asks island residents to avoid leaving Haida Gwaii and discourages non-residents from visiting.
- Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) has moved from level 1 to level 2 response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Level 2 indicates a moderate response to an event.
- Level 2 means they are working on plans to provide elders and immune compromised members with: grocery delivery, prescription drug delivery and meal delivery to elders and other vulnerable people.
- Ensuring the most vulnerable continue to receive groceries or essential medications is a top priority
- Asking family members who have no symptoms to designate a family member to check on their family and support them
- Playgrounds have been closed
- A travel advisory cautions members against travel at this time.
- A State of Emergency eliminates large gatherings and meetings.
- Outside visitors are banned. Returning members are asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
- All non-residents are requested to refrain from travel to the territory (except medical and essential service workers).
- The Bella Bella band store has set aside shopping hours for Elders only.
- COVID-19 infographics have been tailored to the local community for social media sharing.
- An information line will be set up to respond to the questions and concerns of members returning home.
- Heiltsuk members returning home are asked to contact the Emergency Operations Centre if you have questions or concerns. An information line number will be posted soon on the HTC website and Facebook page.
- Physcial distancing measures are in place at the band store and limits have been placed on groceries to ensure all members have ongoing access to supplies. Freight continues to arrive on a regular basis to ensure an ongoing food supply for all.
- The Spawn on Kelp (SOK) harvest has been canceled.
- A State of Emergency restricts all travel in and out of the community, except for essential services.
- Band store visits are limited to 12 shoppers at a time and households are asked to only send one family member to the store to shop.
- Limits are in place for the quantity of goods per family. See the Kitasoo/Xai’Xais Nation Facebook page for the full list.
Metlakatla First Nation
- The Metlakatla Band Office is closed with non-essential services staff working remotely.
- The Metlakatla Ferry Service and North Co-Corp Ferry Service have ceased regularly scheduled runs.
- A Highway 20 checkpoint is in place as of March 25 staffed around the clock by the Nuxalk Fire Department and Coastal Guardians.
- Travelers will be respectfully asked not to enter the territory.
- Residents returning home will be given information on Covid-19 protocols, including self-isolation for 14 days.
- Essential mail, freight, medical and other traffic is permitted.
- A travel advisory restricts non-members from the community and asks all returning members to self-isolate for 14 days.
- The Nation is working to prepare a package for each household with disinfectant and cleaning supplies.
- Orders have been submitted to Save On Foods in Port Hardy for non-perishable food items for each household in the community.