Second wave of COVID-19 crashing into several First Nations communities

Nations in Manitoba hit hard, while travellers don’t seem to get it.

The second wave of COVID-19 has arrived as predicted, and the number of cases on First Nations is rise every day.


Chief Heidi Cook sees the log reports showing how many cars travel through her community of Misipawistik Cree Nation along Hwy 6 in Manitoba.

The highway is a major route to northern Manitoba.

There’s supposed to be a travel ban on non-essential travel to that part of the province at the 53rd parallel.

“There is a vehicle every minute or two that’s passing through the community and you just know not a lot is essential travel, there’s not that many essential reasons to be travelling,” said Cook on Nation to Nation.

The checkpoint was recently put back up after travel eased over the summer following a similar checkpoint being up in early spring when the global pandemic was just beginning.

Little Grand Rapids First Nation on the other side of Lake Winnipeg from Misipawistik has dozens of confirmed cases. As do other nations in further north in Manitoba.


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NDP MP Nikki Ashton is the only federal representative for the region and says the province hasn’t been listening to First Nations throughout the pandemic.

“It’s very concerning. I have been out spoken in a number of occasions about how the provincial government has not taken the First Nations or northern reality seriously,” said Ashton who is based in Thompson, Man. where there a number of new cases, as well.

She said there needs to be more of an effort made to help people from northern communities receive help down south for medical appointments. Ashton said they need more help to self-isolate in Winnipeg before returning home.

PANDEMIC
Many First Nations across the country used checkpoints and lockdowns to keep the novel coronavirus out of their communities as cases spiked elsewhere. Photo: APTN

Valeria Gideon, associate deputy minister of Indigenous Services Canada, said the lack of attention to the concerns of First Nations across the country was something the federal government tried to remind provinces.

“I think when we started to see provincial plans for reopening we did convey that First Nation leaders had expressed concern that they had not been consulted with respect to these reopening approaches and the timing,” said Gideon, who was joining by Dr. Evan Adams deputy chief medical officer of public health for Indigenous Services.

You can see the full interviews below or listen to extended version of the show on our podcast.