Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)

Tsartlip First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA revealed COVID-19 outbreak

Chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA Adam Olsen apologizes

The Tsartlip First Nation expressed outrage this week after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact that the First Nation chose not to make public after witnessing the racism faced by the Cowichan Tribes after an outbreak there.

On March 2, Olsen, the representative for Saanich North and the Islands, shared on social media that the Tsartlip had been under shelter-in-place orders for several weeks and that all adults would be receiving a vaccine dose shortly. He added that as a member and resident of the nation, he too would be vaccinated on March 3.

READ ALSO: ‘Vile; filled with racism’: Officials condemn reaction to Cowichan First Nations COVID outbreak

In a public statement on Thursday, Chief Don Tom called Olsen’s announcement “highly offensive” and said the MLA had overstepped his role. He said the Tsartlip First Nation experienced an outbreak at the end of January and members were ordered to shelter-in-place starting Feb. 8. He said the last positive test was on Feb. 6 and that the nation currently has no active cases of COVID-19.

“Tsartlip has a right to self-determination, we cannot have an MLA misrepresenting our First Nation, and taking liberties to make public statements without consulting Tsartlip,” Tom said, adding that Olsen owed the community a public apology.

READ ALSO: BCAFN condems racism against Cowichan Tribes after COVID-19 outbreak

The same day, Olsen called Tom to offer his “unreserved apology” and shared an open letter on social media acknowledging it is not his role as an MLA to speak on behalf of the nation.

“I know these past weeks have been an incredibly difficult time for our community and I’m devastated that my actions have increased anxiety,” he wrote. “You have my commitment that this situation will not be repeated, and I fully accept your frustration and anger with my actions.”

READ ALSO: Adam Olsen declared winner in Saanich North and the Islands

Tom emphasized that the Tsartlip First Nation had specifically chosen to keep the outbreak private after witnessing the “cruel racism” members of the Cowichan Tribes experienced after an outbreak was declared in January. The Cowichan Tribes issued a stay-at-home order until Jan. 22 after more than 70 COVID-19 cases were reported.

According to Derek Thompson, Cowichan Tribes general manager, racism towards members of the First Nation increased immediately after the outbreak was disclosed.

“We chose to not subject Tsartlip members to this and kept our outbreak status private,” Tom said, noting that after Olsen revealed the situation, the First Nation was forced to address the outbreak publicly and clarify the situation. “Our membership now feel angst and worry for their social well-being.”

-With files from the Canadian Press


@devonscarlett
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

CoronavirusFirst NationsSaanich Peninsula

Just Posted

First responders on scene at Qwam Qwum Stuwixwulh School south of Nanaimo on Thursday afternoon. (Karl Yu/The News Bulletin)
One child airlifted after quad accident at Nanaimo district school

First responders called to Qwam Qwum Stuwixwulh School at around 3:30 p.m.

B.C. Centre for Disease Control maps showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 4-10. (BCCDC image)
Parksville-Qualicum passes Nanaimo in new COVID-19 cases

B.C. Centre for Disease Control reports 65 new cases in Oceanside health area April 4-10

A nearly four-hour standoff at an apartment complex on Cowichan Lake Road in Duncan ended peacefully on Wednesday, April 14. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Police standoff at Duncan apartment ends peacefully

Officers surround building as homeowner held in apartment for nearly four hours by adult son

Pacific Institution in Abbotsford. (Black Press Media file photo)
Inmate with ties to Victoria dies in Abbotsford institution

Brodie Bingley, who was sentenced for aggravated assault in Maple Ridge died April 13

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C.’s pandemic aid package passing Legion branches by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance eligibility

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

The Baynes Sound Connector leaves Denman Island en route to Buckley Bay. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Baynes Sound Connector undergoing upgrades

The MV Quinitsa is providing service between Buckley Bay and Denman Island

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

The corner of 96th Avenue and Glover Road in Fort Langley now has traffic signals, and new “touchless” signal activation buttons. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Busy Fort Langley intersection gets ‘touchless’ crosswalk signals

The new traffic light started operation in April

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Quatse, the abandoned sea otter pup who was rescued in Port Hardy. (Marine Mammal Rescue Centre photo)
Quatse the sea otter pup continues to recover in treatment

Quatse’s last “pupdate” was on March 31, where it was noted she is “doing well and gaining weight.”

Hwy. 4 was shut down in both directions for 10 hours on March 23 as a rock bluff was blasted as part of Kennedy Hill’s ongoing construction. Commuters can expect five more 10 hour closures on five consecutive Wednesdays beginning April 28. (Photo courtesy of Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Five 10-hour Pacific Rim highway closures planned in the next 6 weeks

Closures needed for rock blasting as part of the Kennedy Hill Safety Improvement project.

Most Read