COVID-19 not going away any time soon warns Tsilhqot’in chief

·2 min read

Amid the second wave of COVID-19, traditional Indigenous funeral services should be put on hold, says a First Nation chief west of Williams Lake.

“A lot of our members don’t support cremation, but under these types of circumstances, it’s probably the best option,” said Tl’etinqox Chief Joe Alphonse.

Funeral gatherings often attract many individuals.

Earlier this summer, the Nisga’a Valley Health Authority issued a warning of a possible exposure within the Nass Valley and advised anyone who had attended the funeral of treaty negotiator Dr. Joseph Gosnell between Aug. 21 and Aug. 25. to contact their health provider.

On Nov. 19, new provincial measures to fight the rising number of new infections across the province were issued.

By order of provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry all individuals, workplaces and businesses must significantly reduce levels of social interactions and travel until Dec. 7.

Funerals, weddings and baptisms are allowed to go ahead, but only up to 10 people, including the officiant, can attend.

Masks are now mandatory in all public indoor and retail spaces.

“That’s alarming, and when you look at those numbers they’re doubling every two weeks and a lot of our members have weakened immune systems,” Alphonse said.

“If something like that were to hit our communities, it would be devastating.”

During the first wave, numerous First Nations communities, including Tl’etinqox went into lockdown.

Because lockdowns often require significant financial resources, Alphonse believes information sharing will be ever the more vital in preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“In most cases, it will come out of your own source funding as Indigenous Services Canada will not provide that level of funding, and often they don’t seem like they want us to carry out initiatives like that,” Alphonse said, noting his community is preparing to launch court action against Indigenous Services Canada, which he said owes them $500,000 from the 2017 wildfires.

Rebecca Dyok, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Williams Lake Tribune