Kanesatake waits for COVID-19 vaccines

·3 min read

A month has passed since the first round of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in Canada, but Kanesatake’s turn has not yet come.

While the federal government put Onkwehón:we communities among their priorities, Emergency Response Unit (ERU) spokesperson, Robert Bonspiel, said that the community hasn’t received a fixed date as to when the vaccination will begin.

“We have been led to believe that the reason for the delay is because of the enviable position that Kanesatake finds itself to be in,” said Bonspiel.

Bonspiel said that at the moment, the community still has zero active cases. In comparison, their neighbour’s sister community, Kahnawake, has more than 20 positive cases, where some members already received their first dose of the vaccine.

“The ERU and the community, we are not reactionary, we are proactive,” said Bonspiel. “We are using a lot of common sense, things that are culturally appropriate to us. And so far, it’s working amazingly.”

Julie Lemieux-Côté from the communication services of the Centre integre de sante et de services sociaux des Laurentides (CISSS), explained that the rollout of the vaccine follows priority groups, rather than the amount of cases.

The groups were established by the Quebec government, putting at top of the priority list the vulnerable people living in residential and long-term care centres (CHSLD), health and social workers who have contact with COVID-19 patients, and then private seniors homes. As mentioned last week during one of Quebec’s press conferences, the province’s plan is to have 250,000 people from its priority groups vaccinated before February 8.

“We are still at the first levels, then we will start the vaccination in remote communities,” said Lemieux-Côté.

The CISSS is already in contact with the ERU to organize the logistics surrounding the vaccination campaign in the community. Lemieux-Côté assured that it would only be a matter of one or two weeks, depending on the delivery of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Although, health and social workers don’t have to wait for the vaccines to be delivered in the community to receive their first shot. The Quebec government sent invitations to schedule the administration at one of their two locations outside of the community, such as at Quartier Dix30 in Brossard. Yet, none of the Kanesatake Riverside Elders Home health workers, staff from the Health Centre, nor the First Nations Paramedics (FNP) received their invitation.

“I’m considered a priority to the CISSS in comparison to the general population but not that high on the list,” said Riverside’s registered nurse team leader Sabrina Richard, explaining that they aren’t in direct contact with COVID-19 patients.

Richard believes that Kanesatake has been very lucky not to have been affected by COVID-19 like some other communities have.

“Our time to get the vaccine will come and I hope that everyone considers getting it. It will not only protect you from serious complications, but it will also protect your loved ones,” said Richard.

Even if the vaccine is not mandatory, Kanesatake grand chief Serge Otsi Simon hopes that community members will collaborate.

For him, there’s no other alternative, saying that the community cannot keep going into lockdown.

“Either you roll up your sleeve,” he said, “or you get out there and take the chance to die of this.”


Virginie Ann, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door