More COVID-19 cases, more curfews in northern Quebec Cree territory

·3 min read

Several Cree communities in northern Quebec have moved to put in place tighter restrictions amid COVID-19 outbreaks in two communities — Mistissini and Oujé-Bougoumou.

On Wednesday, the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay added four more confirmed positive COVID-19 cases to the 30 already linked to three gatherings and parties over the new year. That brings the total number of active cases linked to the current outbreak to 34.

As a result, Mistissini, which is the second-largest of the Cree communities and located 800 kilometres north of Montreal, has moved to ban all indoor gatherings and has extended the hours of a curfew to between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., according to the community's Chief, Thomas Neeposh.

"We don't allow any gatherings in the community, for example like birthday parties. Crees are known to feast. Those type of gatherings are restricted at this time because of our situation," said Neeposh.

A community of 4,000 with that many [cases]... it's a concern. - Thomas Neeposh, Mistissini Chief

Thirteen of the positive cases are in Mistissini and include two elders, according to Neeposh.

"A community of 4,000 with that many [cases] — it's a concern," said Neeposh. "Council is doing its best to try and stop the potential spread of COVID-19. We expect people to support us."

CBC North/ Jaime Little
CBC North/ Jaime Little

The fines if found to be having an illegal gathering are $1,000 for a first offence and $2,000 for a second offence and so on, said Neeposh. For breaking a curfew, the first offence fine is $500 and $1,000 for the second offence. Neeposh said some fines for breaking curfew were handed out Tuesday night.

Neeposh said it's very important for youth in the community to follow the restrictions and protocols along with everyone else.

"It's very important for them to realize it's a serious situation. I think they now know how fast it can spread once it comes into the community."

The measures in Mistissini will be revisited in two weeks time, according to Neeposh.

Cases also up in Oujé-Bougoumou

With 18 positive cases, in a population just over 900 people, the COVID-19 outbreak is even more of a concern in the nearby community of Oujé-Bougoumou. Restrictions in that community have been extended.

A community lockdown and curfew between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. remains in effect, according to a release issue Tuesday by Chief Curtis Bosum.

"Once there are no new cases, we will then begin the 14-day countdown for our isolation measures," said Bosum in the release.

The largest Cree community of Chisasibi, which is 900 kilometres away from the outbreak, has also put in place a curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and is restricting non-essential travel and gatherings in the community. It has also put in place a special phone line for any COVID-19-related questions. The number is 819-855-2878, ext. 307.

The measures in Chisasibi are in place until at least Feb. 8, according to the community's Facebook page.