Large gatherings reported in Six Nations leads to increased security at access points

Gatherings of five or more people are currently banned in Ontario under the Emergency Management and Civil Protections Act.

Reports of large gatherings on Six Nations of the Grand River has forced officials to beef up check points to screen who gets into the community.

According to the officials, there were an undisclosed number of large gatherings that occurred over the weekend and one in particular that lead to an outpouring of calls from community members who reported that at least 25 cars attended a single residence on Saturday evening into early Sunday morning.

“I think what I can say at this point, is discussions have been initiated, in terms of what we can put in place,” said Councillor Nathan Wright said. “I don’t think we want to move hastily but you know, have something in place for later this week that tightens the reins at each of the check points but more importantly, gives the support necessary and all the tools to the individuals that are manning some of those check points.”

Gatherings of five or more people are currently banned in Ontario under the Emergency Management and Civil Protections Act.

In the statement issued on Sunday, Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council said that they are waiting for communication from Six Nations Police regarding approval or use of the act, and how the service “will address large gatherings like the one that occurred over the weekend in a fair, accountable and transparent manner.”

When a state of emergency was declared in Six Nations territory 38 days ago, elected Chief Mark Hill encouraged community members to get through the COVID-19 pandemic, together.

The community has been in mourning after one person died from the virus. Since then, the number of unresolved cases in the community lowered from nine, to one.

On Friday, Chief Hill said it appeared that community efforts to slow the spread by practicing social distancing, staying at home and restricting access to the territory appeared to be working, but he firmly stressed the importance of maintaining those practices while a state of emergency remains in effect.

Within hours of receiving reports about the gatherings, Hill and the elected Council issued the statements, condemning the actions “unequivocally” as direct disobedience of public health’s direction to physically distance and isolate during the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 virus has the potential to spread when there are more than 5 people gathered at one location,” the statement issued on Monday said. “We cannot become complacent simply because numbers are lower than surrounding communities.”

At a news conference Monday, the Ontario government released updated COVID-19 modelling and projected which appeared to show that community spread of the virus appears to have peaked in the province.

“The modelling clearly demonstrates that we are making progress in our fight against this deadly virus. That’s due to the actions of all Ontarians, those who are staying home and practising physical distancing, and to the heroic efforts of our frontline health care workers,” Premier Doug Ford said. “But COVID-19 continues to be a clear and present danger, especially to our seniors and most vulnerable citizens. That is why we must continue to follow the advice of our Chief Medical Officer of Health and stay the course in order to keep people safe and healthy.”

As of this posting, Ontario has 11,884 confirmed cases of the virus – 584 people have died.

Wright said that security measures are being increased at all access points while discussions have been initiated between the Emergency Response Group and Six Nations police.

Allana is a graduate of the Indigenous Studies program at Trent University and the new media journalism program at Sheridan College. She worked at Sudbury.com and TVO before coming to APTN National News where she now covers Indigenous stories in Southern Ontario as a video journalist. McDougall is a member of Hiawatha First Nation.