NAN Calls for Urgent Response from Canada and Ontario as COVID-19 Cases Rise in First Nations

THUNDER BAY, ON: Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Derek Fox is calling on the governments of Canada and Ontario to provide an urgent response to support First Nations leaders who are overwhelmed by the steady increase of COVID-19 cases across NAN territory. 

“The situation in Bearskin Lake First Nation and the sudden increases in positive cases in other communities is very alarming and requires an urgent response. Our leaders need to see action with on-the-ground supports delivered to their communities without delay,” said Grand Chief Derek Fox. “Since the pandemic began we have worked closely with Ontario and Canada to keep our communities safe, and we need to maintain that effort. As a priority, we must ensure that the needs of each community are identified, and that leadership receives the immediate supports they require. The Omicron variant presents an extremely serious threat, and we hope that the spread of this virus can be contained as quickly as possible.” 

Many communities are losing their ability to care for their members and have exhausted their limited resources. This includes basic needs like drinking water and food deliveries for those in isolation, wood and fuel for heat, and preventative measures to alleviate overcrowding and housing shortages that will help contain the spread of infection. 

Bearskin Lake First Nation declared a State of Emergency this week due to an outbreak of COVID-19. At last report, there are 53 positive cases with community members under isolation in 25 homes. The community is now in lockdown, with only essential travel allowed. The community is in immediate need of: 

  • fuel, portable heaters, woodcutters and equipment to distribute wood to heat homes; 
  • water and food distribution to isolated community members; 
  • security and incident command assistance for Chief and council; and 
  • additional supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE). 

The COVID-19 situation is changing quickly across NAN territory. Currently, NAN is aware of 89 active cases in 9 NAN communities including Fort Albany, Ginoogaming, Moose Factory, Sandy Lake, Poplar Hill, Lac Seul, Bearskin Lake, Kashechewan and Marten Falls. 

Muskrat Dam First Nation has suspended non-essential and inter-community travel as cases increase across NAN territory. Proof of two negative COVID-19 tests is required before community members are allowed to return. Sachigo Lake First Nation has suspended all inter-community travel until all positive COVID-19 cases in surrounding communities are resolved. 

For more information please contact:
Michael Heintzman,
Director of Communications
Cell: (807) 621-2790