The MPP for Simcoe North says she believes Indigenous people in her riding and elsewhere in Ontario have taken COVID-19 seriously, and she is pleased to see that.
Jill Dunlop said that during the first wave of the pandemic, 119 of the 133 Indigenous territories in Ontario reported no on-reserve cases of the coronavirus.
That bucks a trend, particularly in Saskatchewan and Alberta, where the rate of COVID infection is substantially higher among Indigenous people than it is among non-Indigenous people.
Dunlop credits the First Nations leaders in Ontario for taking preventive steps.
“Some First Nations communities have taken additional measures to stop the spread during the pandemic. Some had established curfews. Some were only allowing residents of that community to come into the community, using a checkpoint,” Dunlop said. “They are also following public health regulations to make sure they are not bringing COVID back into their communities as well.”
Dunlop said that the respect that Elders have in their communities is a likely part of the reason COVID numbers have been lower in First Nation communities.
“If this was something that was affecting young people, we would see our (Elders) do everything they could to protect our young people,” she said. “We need to do the same to protect our seniors from the virus in this case.”
Dunlop’s riding includes two First Nation Territories: the Chippewas of Rama First Nation near Orillia and the Beausoleil First Nation located on Christian, Beckwith and Hope islands on Georgian Bay, not far from Penetanguishene.
As of last week, only four COVID cases had been diagnosed on the Rama territory since the global pandemic began. All were detected in October and all four patients have since recovered.
There have been no cases reported on the Beausoleil First Nation Territory.
Meanwhile, Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, said he, too, is extremely pleased with the way Indigenous people on the territories the unit serves have handled the pandemic.
“People need to be aware how (the virus) is transmitted. Ideally, you are sticking to your household for intimate contact and that you are otherwise maintaining a two-metre distance from other people, even if they are family and they are not in the household,” the doctor said.
Dr. Gardner said he is very aware that it is only natural for Indigenous people to want to get together with extended family and friends. But, he added, that comes with risks and natural tendencies have to be overcome and precautions are needed at this time.
The doctor added that currently they don’t publicly report COVID cases from the four First Nations territories that the health unit serves in Muskoka and Simcoe Region.
John McFadden is a Local Journalism Reporter with The Parry Sound North Star, MuskokaRegion.com and Simcoe.com. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada
John McFadden, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com