Defeating COVID-19 requires unity, says Tsilhqot’in Nation

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The Tsilhqot’in Nation is calling for unity amid racism during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reports of racism towards Tsilhqot’in members, some of whom have reportedly been denied service in Williams Lake, is being condemned by Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) Chief Willie Sellars, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Cariboo Regional District Chair Margo Wagner.

“The virus is all around us, found across the entire world and country, and yet our people are being blamed for its arrival in the area and its spread,” Tsilhqot’in National Government Tribal Chair Chief Joe Alphonse said in a news release Feb. 8.

“That is not logical, it’s just racist.”

Online public forums and social media platforms are allegedly chock full of opinion and comments about Indigenous peoples being responsible for bringing COVID-19 to the area and spreading it to others.

Dix said the COVID-19 virus does not discriminate, but unfortunately, people and systems can.

He said First Nations have been working closely with the Interior Health Authority and First Nations Health Authority throughout the pandemic to support the province’s COVID-19 response.

Chief Sellars said they have successfully contained the spread of COVID-19 at WLFN following a strong emergency response and support of many regional, provincial and national partners.

“Anyone who would attribute responsibility for COVID-19 transmission to First Nations people or First Nations communities is acting irrationally and making incorrect assessments based on race,” Sellars said.

“That constitutes racism and is entirely unacceptable.”

All agreed it would take a collaborative effort of everyone within the region to defeat the virus through unity, kindness, and respect.

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