Request for Deployment of Military Personnel to Bearskin Lake First Nation

News Release from Bearskin Lake First Nation

On December 29th, 2021, the Bearskin Lake First Nation declared a state of emergency due to an outbreak of COVID 19 infections.  As of today, 174 individuals have tested positive – which means almost fifty percent of the on-reserve population is infected.  Those infected include the administrative and essential staff of the band’s administration, operations, and maintenance units. The day-to-day operations of the community are crippled.

“The virus is vicious, and it does not discriminate,” said Chief Lefty Kamenawatamin. “Our babies and children, mothers, and Elders have all been hit. We are reeling at the speed of the spread of this potentially deadly disease. This outbreak has stretched our resources and our capacity to the point of breaking.”

Like many impoverished, remote First Nation communities, Bearskin Lake must contend with a poorly resourced public health care system, few nurses, severe overcrowding, and no space to operate testing and isolation centres. The community cannot separate infected people from those that are uninfected, adding to the stress and anxiety and potentially exposing individuals to reinfection.

Currently, the majority of households are under quarantine and require food and water delivery, chopped wood for heating and medication to relieve fever and pain.   There is now an urgent need for outside health and other workers to help operate the community’s crisis care system around the clock. Without places available to house outside volunteers, daily flights in and out of the community carrying crisis personnel is essential.

“We have requested financial and other supports from the federal government, but we have been told that the assistance we will get is minimal,” said Chief Lefty Kamenawatamin. “We will not get funds to bring crisis personnel to Bearskin Lake – which signals to us that we are on our own. I must now implore Canada and Canadians for their assistance and request that the military be deployed to us immediately to assist us.”

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Bearskin Lake First Nation is located 425 kilometres north of Sioux Lookout on Lake Michikan. It is accessible by air throughout the year, and during the winter months, by ice road. In 1929 they signed Treaty 9 with Ontario and Canada which assured them economic and educational opportunity and Canadian standards of health care and services.

For more information contact:

Michael Heintzman
Nishnawbe Aski Nation
c. 807 621 2790
mheintzman@nan.ca

Anne Chabot
Windigo First Nations Council
c. 416 579 2940