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Several First Nations communities in Canada have closed their borders to avoid COVID-19

by Cédric Ayisa - November 20, 2020   95 Views   4 min
Several First Nations communities in Canada have closed their borders to avoid COVID-19

Claim

Several First Nations communities have closed their borders in order to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic

Verdict

Accurate (supported by evidence and facts; acceptable margin of error)

Since the beginning of the pandemic, several media outlets have periodically reported the border closures of Indigenous communities in Canada to prevent the spread of COVID-19. A Reuters news agency article published on March 19, 2020, for example, states that several First Nations communities in Canada had closed their borders in order to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. This statement is accurate.

The article points out that Indigenous communities were already facing poor living conditions before the arrival of COVID-19. Closing borders therefore became a means for communities to limit the spread of the virus, while ensuring the supply of food, equipment, and goods necessary for the functioning of the communities.

The closure of some communities

The British Columbia First Nations Health Authority confirmed in a news item published on April 24, 2020 that across Canada, some First Nations have decided to set up checkpoints or close their borders to protect their communities from the spread of COVID-19. This information was corroborated by press releases from several First Nations such as the M'Chigeeng of Ontario, the Listuguj Mi'gmaq of Quebec and the Haida Gwaii of British Columbia. These First Nations explained that they had decided to prohibit or limit non-essential travel within and outside their territories by setting up checkpoints. We conclude that Reuters' assertion about reserve closures is accurate.

Under the Indian Act, Band Councils have the right to adopt measures to reduce the spread of contagious diseases, such as restricting traffic. The British Columbia First Nations Medical Authority confirms that the decision to close a reserve rests with Aboriginal communities.

Higher vulnerability to COVID-19

To date, Indigenous communities in Canada have been relatively unaffected by COVID-19. However, this trend has begun to change. Indeed, among First Nations on reserve, between September 3, 2020 and November 16, 2020, the number of positive cases rose from 459 to 2597, while the number of recovered cases jumped from 417 to 1452. The number of deaths increased from 6 to 20 according to Aboriginal Services Canada. The government had also noted that First Nations communities were succeeding in slowing the spread of the virus, but in recent weeks, there has been an increase in the number of cases. “In recent weeks, we have seen an alarming increase in cases of COVID-19 in the general Canadian population, as well as in some First Nations communities, linked to complacency, at times, associated with large gatherings such as funerals, weddings, as well as visiting sensitive sites outside of Indigenous communities and unknowingly bringing the virus back into the community," explained Dr. Tom Wong, Chief Medical Officer of Indigenous Services Canada, in an interview.

In Nunavut, since the announcement of the first case on November 6, there has been a sharp increase in the number of cases to 60 as of November 17, 2020. As a result, local authorities have announced a two-week, territory-wide lockdown starting November 18, 2020. Schools, day-care centres and non-essential businesses will also be closed.

Indigenous communities are at greater risk from a pandemic such as COVID-19 because of the harsh living conditions. Indeed, as highlighted in this article on covid19facts.ca, factors such as health status and lack of infrastructure influence the vulnerability of First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities. According to Statistics Canada, members of Indigenous communities have more chronic health problems such as diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases than the non-Indigenous population. These health problems, according to Health Canada, are factors that can aggravate COVID-19. As a result, First Nations people are at greater risk of developing severe forms of the disease.

In addition, there are problems of poor infrastructure, including lack of access to drinking water and adapted housing. This makes it difficult in Indigenous communities to comply with measures to fight COVID-19, such as hand washing and isolation.

Other measures put in place by Indigenous communities

In addition to checkpoints, some communities promote educational resources created by the government in several languages. In addition, others have implemented curfew periods and imposed fines for anyone entering communities or crossing existing borders without permission. Flag systems, such as the one in Curve Lake First Nations, Ontario, have also been created to signal the need in any given home, based on the colors of the flag displayed.

According to a 2018 report from the First Nations Information Governance Centre, 1 in 2 First Nations households face food insecurity. During the COVID-19 pandemic, food distribution programs were set up to reduce this problem in the communities.

What the government is doing

The Government of Canada has put funding in place to support community initiatives and address some urgent needs in the fight against COVID-19. Indigenous Services provides equipment, human resources (especially health related) and food services to prevent and control the disease, even in remote areas.

A global issue

The United Nations notes that the vulnerability of Indigenous peoples to disease outbreaks and pandemics is not unique to Canada, as it is observable elsewhere in the world. Currently, for example, the case of the Navajo Nation in the United States is emblematic of the increased risks to Indigenous peoples from the COVID-19 pandemic. With 13,744 confirmed cases and more than 600 deaths as of November 17, the Navajo Nation has been hard hit by the pandemic. It regularly imposes curfews and closes its borders to non-essential visitors. On November 16, 2020, authorities announced a three-week lockdown until December 6, 2020.

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Haida Nation

http://www.haidanation.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/FINAL-20200602-HGSOE-Poster-11x17-web-version.pdf

Mi'gmaq of Listuguj

http://listuguj.ca/listuguj-migmaq-government-declares-state-of-emergency/

M'Chigeeng First Nation

https://www.mchigeeng.ca/coronavirus-updates.html

The Indian Act

https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/i-5/page-12.html

Aboriginal Services Canada

https://www.sac-isc.gc.ca/eng/1581964230816/1581964277298

Statistics Canada

https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200417/dq200417b-eng.htm

Government of Canada

https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/vulnerable-populations-covid-19.html

https://www.canada.ca/en/indigenous-services-canada/news/2020/07/update-on-covid-19-in-indigenous-communities1.html

https://www.sac-isc.gc.ca/eng/1602703831334/1602703863331

https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/covid-19-how-to-isolate-at-home.html

https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/reduce-spread-covid-19-wash-your-hands.html

United Nations

https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/wp-content/uploads/sites/19/2018/03/The-State-of-The-Worlds-Indigenous-Peoples-WEB.pdf

Curve Lake First Nations

https://www.curvelakefirstnation.ca/2020/03/26/curve-lake-first-nation-covid-19-community-colour-flag-protocol/

Yellowhead Institute

https://yellowheadinstitute.org/2020/04/07/corona-in-community-the-first-nation-response/

https://yellowheadinstitute.org/2020/04/29/covid19-food-insecurity/#:~:text=Call%20for%20Collaboration-,COVID%2D19%20did%20not%20cause%20food%20insecurity%20in%20Indigenous%20communities,it%20will%20make%20it%20worse&text=IT%20HAS%20BEEN%20OVER%20JUST,the%20virus%20that%20causes%20it.

First Nations Information Governance Centre

https://fnigc.ca/sites/default/files/docs/fnigc_rhs_phase_3_volume_two_en_final_screen.pdf

CBC

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/manitoba-first-nations-lock-down-seek-help-as-covid-19-threatens-communities-1.5802086

Nunavut – Ministry of Health

https://www.gov.nu.ca/health/information/chief-public-health-officer-orders

https://gov.nu.ca/health/information/covid-19-novel-coronavirus

First Nations Health Authority

https://www.fnha.ca/about/news-and-events/news/first-nations-community-closures-and-checkpoints-in-covid-19-pandemic

Navajo First Nation

https://www.ndoh.navajo-nsn.gov/COVID-19/Data

https://www.ndoh.navajo-nsn.gov/covid-19

  Claim

Reuters

Organization
Several First Nations communities have closed their borders in order to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic

Verdict:

Accurate (supported by evidence and facts; acceptable margin of error)

 November 20, 2020


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