Coastal First Nations have restricted visitors to protect communities from the spread of COVID-19 as they work with Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council to meet local needs, says NTC president Judith Sayers.
“Some of the communities are blocking anyone from going in, which is good news,” Sayers said. “Most have shut down everything except essential services.”
On Thursday, March 26, Parks Canada joined local Indigenous communities, as well as Ucluelet, Tofino, Bamfield and Port Renfrew, urging people not to travel. Pacific Rim National Park was closed to vehicle access Wednesday.
First Nations Health Authority and Emergency Management B.C. are working together with local governments through the pandemic to alleviate hardships that may arise, she said. Information on physical distancing has been widely circulated through community bulletins on social media. Community food distribution continues with careful provision to avoid direct personal contact.
“Many of our First Nations are bringing care packages to elders,” Sayers said. “A lot of nations are trying to do bulk buying. They don’t want people coming and going to grocery stores.”
Ordinarily, the NTC employees about 200 people who work at six different locations. All administrative offices were shut down a week ago while essential services have been maintained. The NTC’s executive and human resource committee are monitoring the situation daily. Minimal staffing continues in certain departments, such as community nursing and child and family services. FNHA is in touch with individual First Nations to assess local need for items such as masks and respirators.
The NTC has received requests from various communities about their needs.
“Everyone is responding differently,” she said. “We’re mobilizing anybody and everybody who is of help.”
Sayers has discussed the pandemic and its impact in phone conversations with MLA and Minister of Indigenous Relations Scott Fraser, MP Gord Johns and Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan. Some communities want to know if fishing restrictions can be eased to provide a supplementary source of food.
Tseshaht First Nation declared a state of emergency on Thursday and Toquaht First Nation will invoke its emergency act on the weekend.
“We’re lucky here so far here,” said Hugh Braker, wearing gloves while providing an update via Facebook from the Tseshaht emergency operations centre. “Tseshaht, as far as I know, does not have any infections locally. “We know that other Nuu-chah-nulth nations are not as lucky.”
Meanwhile, the five Maa-nulth Treaty nations will see their treaty in action since it enables them to adopt emergency measures without a band council resolution requiring a leadership vote, Sayers noted.
FNHA offers a comprehensive information page at https://www.fnha.ca/what-we-do/communicable-disease-control/coronavirus.