Advertisement

Indigenous leaders in Thunder Bay, Ont., area call for COVID-19 relief

Click to play video: '“People are crying on the phone:” Indigenous communities grapple with PPE shortages' “People are crying on the phone:” Indigenous communities grapple with PPE shortages
As variants of COVID-19 continue to spread from coast-to-coast to coast, Indigenous communities have been left with worries about access to personal protective equipment. But help may soon be on the way for many of them. A grass-roots organization from Ottawa is stepping in with support -- even if it means going into debt. Morganne Campbell has the story – Feb 21, 2021

Community leaders in the Thunder Bay, Ont., area are calling on all levels of government to take action on the worrying spread of COVID-19 in the city that’s a travel hub for northwestern Ontario.

Fort William First Nation Chief Peter Collins and Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler are requesting support as they say cases among vulnerable populations have overwhelmed local resources.

Read more: COVID-19 vaccinations begin in Ontario fly-in First Nations

Outbreaks have been declared at correctional facilities, among the homeless population in Thunder Bay, and at number of local schools.

In a joint statement issued Thursday, the chiefs pointed to inadequate resources for people released from correctional facilities who are being sent to isolate in Sioux Lookout, Thunder Bay and Timmins hotels.

Story continues below advertisement

“Thunder Bay is in a precarious situation, and there is growing concern as government ministries, health organizations and health units struggle to contain the spread of this virus,” Fiddler said.

“Moving back to lockdown across northwestern Ontario will be painful, but is necessary as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.”

Their call comes ahead of a decision expected Friday from Ontario’s cabinet on whether to move the area into lockdown.

Click to play video: '‘It’s a really big tool’: Piikani Nation Radio reaching Blackfoot residents with COVID-19 information' ‘It’s a really big tool’: Piikani Nation Radio reaching Blackfoot residents with COVID-19 information
‘It’s a really big tool’: Piikani Nation Radio reaching Blackfoot residents with COVID-19 information – Feb 5, 2021

The government moved the Thunder Bay region to the second-strictest “red” category of its pandemic restrictions system two weeks ago when it lifted a stay-at-home order for much of the province.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

Data has shown the stay-home order and other strict measures brought down cases and hospitalizations after they were imposed in January, but those numbers have since started to trend upwards again.

Story continues below advertisement

Ontario’s top doctor said Thursday he has recommended a potential lockdown for Thunder Bay to stop the virus from spreading into northern Indigenous communities with few health-care resources.

Thunder Bay Mayor Bill Mauro said Friday he’d be surprised if the province did not impose a lockdown based on the steady rate of case growth.

Read more: Ontario lays out COVID-19 vaccine timeline for seniors, feds urged to plan rollout to Indigenous people in cities

“We’re in a difficult spot right now, for sure,” he said in a telephone interview.

He said the city has reported more cases in February than throughout all of 2020. There were 349 cases active in the city of more than 121,000 on Friday, according to the local health unit.

“Clearly there is a situation here that we don’t see ending in the near term,” Mauro said of the trend.

The mayor has been calling on the provincial and federal governments to provide financial and human-resources assistance in health-care. He said the city does not have resources to meet the needs of its COVID-19 isolation centre, that’s on the “verge of failing.”

On Thursday, Thunder Bay’s medical officer of health recommended all schools move to virtual learning next week after a number of outbreaks in schools. At least two school boards have indicated they plan to follow her advice.

Story continues below advertisement

Read more: One dead in COVID 19 outbreak linked to variant at North Bay, Ont., apartment building

Meanwhile, one northwestern Ontario First Nation declared a state of emergency after several members living off-reserve in Thunder Bay tested positive for COVID-19.

Neskantaga First Nation Chief Chris Moonias said at least 12 members had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday and one person was in intensive care.

He has called for assistance from Ottawa to fund emergency housing for the homeless population and for citizens of his First Nation to be immunized against COVID-19.

Ontario reported 1,258 new cases of COVID-19 Friday and 28 more deaths from the virus.

Click to play video: 'Here’s why Indigenous-led vaccine strategy matters in Nova Scotia' Here’s why Indigenous-led vaccine strategy matters in Nova Scotia
Here’s why Indigenous-led vaccine strategy matters in Nova Scotia – Feb 25, 2021

Sponsored content