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Hiawatha First Nation chief says checkpoint aims to keep residents safe, cottagers away

Hiawatha First Nation has a checkpoint entering the community during the coronavirus pandemic.
Hiawatha First Nation has a checkpoint entering the community during the coronavirus pandemic. Hiawatha First Nation

Chief Laurie Carr says a roadway checkpoint station at Hiawatha First Nation aims to prevent the coronavirus from entering the community.

“It’s not a blockade — we’re not blocking people in or out,” said Carr during a media conference hosted by Peterborough Public Health on Wednesday.

“We are checking to see who is here.”

The First Nation, located 20 km south of Peterborough, established the checkpoint at 881 Hiawatha Line last Thursday, aiming to limit the vehicle traffic entering the community of approximately 360.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Curve Lake First Nation using coloured-flag system for residents to request help

Carr notes the checkpoint is to prevent an influx of seasonal cottagers who arrive to the Rice Lake area in neighbouring Otonabee-South Monaghan Township (OSM). The First Nation and township share a number of roads and boundaries.

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Only residents — who may be asked to show their First Nation status card — along with their spouses, OSM residents, essential service deliveries and emergency responders will be permitted to enter and leave the First Nation. All other traffic will be turned around.

“We are trying to do our role to keep this virus limited, and not coming into our community, hopefully,” she said.

COVID-19 Roundup: Premier Ford urges residents to avoid visiting cottages
COVID-19 Roundup: Premier Ford urges residents to avoid visiting cottages

She says some seasonal cottagers are calling her, claiming they do not have COVID-19 symptoms and won’t be in her community. The First Nation also closed its trailer park.

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“No one right now can say they are 100 per cent not sick — nobody can say that right now,” said Carr.

She echoed the health unit’s message for people to refrain from visiting their seasonal cottages or properties and remain at their primary residence. She stressed cottagers’ most important “role” is to stay home.

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“We all have a role in this, we all have a part in this,” she said.

Businesses were asked to close last week and only the community’s gas station/store, The Old Railway Stop, is open from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. for Hiawatha and OSM residents.

READ MORE: Petition calls for coronavirus support in remote Indigenous communities in Canada

“My traditional person said to me the Creator has heard our prayers and heard our ceremonies,” Carr said, “but it doesn’t make us immune to the virus so we all have a role to play.”

Carr couldn’t say when the checkpoint would be lifted.

“I wish I could answer you. We’re trying to follow Ontario, Canada and health officials’ recommendations and regulations,” she said.

“Once they are being lifted, that’s when we will lift it too. I can’t give you a definite answer.”

Curve Lake First Nation, north of Peterborough, also implemented a similar measure last week.

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