Kanesatake’s vaccination rollout is about to shift into high speed. While the community
health authorities started to administer the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccines almost a month ago at the Tsi Teiontatshnié:tha Kanesatake Health Centre (KHC), a new mass vaccination centre opened its doors on Thursday, March 25.
“It seems like a light at the end of a really long, dark tunnel,” said Kanesatake grand chief, Serge Otsi Simon. “Now the community will have a real chance at overcoming this pandemic before it takes on another life.”
Twenty cubicles for vaccination were installed at the Rotiwennakehte/Aronhiatekha School by the KHC and Emergency Unit Response (ERU) teams, with the help of the Centre integré de santé et de services sociaux (CISSS) des Laurentides. Julie Lemieux-Côté, one of the CISSS spokespersons, confirmed that for now, 1,200 doses of the Moderna vaccines were sent to Kanesatake, with approximately 1,600 members.
“The CISSS from the Laurentides supported the community in its logistic and operational process related to the deployment of the vaccination site,” said Lemieux-Côté. “In fact, members of the community vaccination teams came to visit some of the CISSS des Laurentides’ mass vaccination sites for inspiration.”
The grand chief was also full of pride when addressing the newly-opened clinic. He explained that it has been very powerful to watch the ERU coordinate and collaborate with the CISSS to provide the best services to the community.
“The ERU made more than 500 calls in two days to confirm people’s appointments, schedule them, make sure that everybody is taken care of,” said Simon. “It’s incredible coordination.”
Simon explained that with the help of the elected councillor of the Gespeg Mi’kmaq community Nadia Robertson, they were able to organize vaccinations at Kanesatake’s clinic for 250 members of her community living in the surrounding area.
Robertson explained that for community members outside of Gespeg who are living in Montreal or urban areas, it can be very difficult to obtain the same services that they would get at home. She said the collaboration was therefore essential to provide fairness of services to all Onkwehón:we regardless of their geographic location.
“It also opens the door to future partnerships between Mohawk and Mi’kmaq,” said Robertson.
The second phase of Kanesatake’s vaccination is planned to go until March 28, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. While Kanesatake is following the Quebec priority’s list for vaccination, KHC is encouraging all members and non-members living with Kanehsata’kehró:non, aged 12 and older, to register.
“It’s an example of self-determination and collaboration between nations. It allows our communities to open themselves to other cultures, learn to know each other,” said Robertson. “For me, it’s also the way to reconciliation.”
Virginie Ann, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door