Troops arrive at Bearskin Lake amid COVID-19 outbreak: Blair

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Army to help virus-stricken Bearskin Lake First Nation'
COVID-19: Army to help virus-stricken Bearskin Lake First Nation
WATCH: A remote COVID-stricken First Nation in northwestern Ontario is getting some military help, but not as much help as it asked for. Bearskin Lake First Nation is about 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay. More than half of the community’s 400 residents have tested positive and nearly the entire community is in self-isolation. David Akin has more – Jan 9, 2022

Canadian troops have arrived at the Bearskin Lake First Nation community in northern Ontario to conduct an “initial assessment,” according to federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair.

Blair said in a tweet Saturday afternoon that Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members arrived in the community after receiving a formal request from the provincial government on Jan. 6.

“Officials from across government are working closely with community leadership to get support where it is needed,” he said.

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Three CAF members from a patrol group in Borden, Ont., conducted the initial assessment Saturday to determine how troops could help with the government’s response, according to a Defence Department spokesperson.
Click to play video: '‘I don’t know if we can last any longer’: COVID-19 hits nearly half of Bearskin Lake First Nation'
‘I don’t know if we can last any longer’: COVID-19 hits nearly half of Bearskin Lake First Nation

Defence Minister Anita Anand tweeted Sunday that Canadian Forces members will continue to help “communities in need during this difficult time.”

On Jan. 7, Bearskin Lake Chief Lefty Kamenawatamin said the remote community is “almost at a breaking point” after 201 of its 400 residents were infected with COVID-19, resulting in a state of emergency.

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Kamenawatamin called on the federal government to send urgent aid in a news conference Friday, including staff to distribute essential supplies such as food, water and wood stoves to keep residents warm in temperatures as low as -30 C.

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There are currently around 30 front-line workers in the community.

“We need the help now and boots on the ground,” Kamenawatamin said.

Around 80 per cent of the community is vaccinated but they are short on testing kits and places to isolate, the chief said, which is now necessary for a large portion of residents.

More to come.

— with files from the Canadian Press

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