Federal support amid COVID-19 outbreak disappointing: Bearskin Lake First Nation

·1 min read

The chief of a northern Ontario First Nation says he is disappointed with the federal government's response to a COVID-19 outbreak that has infected half the members of his community.

Chief Lefty Kamenawatamin of Bearskin Lake First Nation says only a few members of the Canadian Armed Forces have been deployed in his community and federal physical and moral support has been "minimal."

He argues that the situation is an example of what he called the "dishonesty and neglect" First Nations have been experiencing in their relations with the Canadian government for a long time.

Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier today that his government's response is "extremely present," including the deployment of Canadian Rangers and paying for workers from neighbouring communities to provide support.

The government says it has provided $1.2 million in funding to the community for food, personal protective equipment and other supplies.

Bearskin Lake First Nation officials declared an emergency in the community in late December and formally requested military assistance from Ottawa last week.

A total of 210 people have been infected with COVID-19 in the 400-person community, which is located about 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 12, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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