Indigenous communities in B.C. starting to see positive COVID-19 cases

On Wednesday prime minister announced many provinces are in second wave of pandemic


Community leaders have come together to put more pressure on the government to release COVID-19 information, hoping it can keep them safe.

Canada is now in the second wave of the pandemic according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau said in an address to the nation that the pandemic is worse now than it was this past Spring.

“The numbers are clear when we went into lockdown; there were 47 new cases of COVID-19. Yesterday alone, we had well over a 1,000,” said Trudeau.

First Nations able to keep the virus out when the pandemic started, are now confirming new cases.

In recent weeks, Bella Coola, Bella Bella on the Central Coast and Witset in North of B.C. all were under lockdowns in an effort to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

A coalition of leaders representing more than 20 communities held a virtual town hall meeting where they talked about the need for the province to start sharing where new cases are popping up.

Currently, BC Health releases regional data on where cases take place but not the specific city or community.

They do release specific or more detailed data when there is a community outbreak.

When confronted with the transparency issue earlier in the year, health officials have stated concerns for privacy as a reason for their current practices.

Judith Sayers, president of the Nuu-chan-nulth Tribal Council representing 14 nations located on Vancouver Island, said it’s not just her people who need to know.

“Lots of people would like the information of having Covid cases in the town you live in, and the town you’re close to that would also make you to be more cautious,” she said.

Last week Sayers and other chiefs in the coalition filed a complaint to the province’s privacy commission for help.

The leaders alleged that the ministry of health is in violation of the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act by not providing presumptive positive case information for people travelling to their communities.

Heiltsuk Tribal Council Chief Marilyn Slett said knowing where the cases are could help keep the virus out.

“We have been advocating for, since the beginning of the pandemic to have that information of proximate cases shared with us. So our community and our emergency operations centre can make sure that we are implanting the community measures that we have to,” she said.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, the chief health officer in the province said her department shares the same concerns as the community leaders.

“We have been meeting regularly with the coastal first nations around these very legitimate concerns that they have and absolutely acknowledge they are doing their best and what they believe is important to protect their communities,” said Henry.

The privacy commissioners’ office said an investigation has started.

“That this virus is going to be around for a while before a vaccine is out and treatment is there, so what we do has to protect us now and has to be sustainable into the future, ” shared Slett.

Slett said their coalition was organized in an effort to protect their elders, knowledge holders and vulnerable populations from the virus.

They will keep putting pressure on the government to release the information they believe can help their communities as the pandemic continues..

According to Henry, the numbers are going up.

“We have 1,371 active cases in British Columbia in all health authorities of whom 61 people are hospitalized, 20 of whom are in critical care or ICU,” Henry said at a weekly press conference on COVID-19 on Sept. 24.

Video Journalist / Kitimat Village, B.C.

Lee is a video journalist with APTN News, who shoots, reports and edits stories out of northern British Columbia. As a member of the Haisla Nation, Lee is proud to call Kitimat Village home again after living on Vancouver Island for 18 years. He has a passion for storytelling and looks forward to sharing stories through the lens of First Nations people.