Spokesman forced to quarantine

·4 min read

Kanesatake First Nations Paramedics (FNP) director and Emergency Response Unit (ERU) spokesperson Robert Bonspiel is in isolation after being in direct contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

Earlier last week, the healthcare professional, with whom Bonspiel was in prolonged contact, was tested and received a positive result on Saturday, December 12. Even though Bonspiel later received a negative test the same day, he will be in isolation until December 25 as a precautionary measure.

“We had to make sure that we went above and beyond, to protect everybody as much as we could,” said Bonspiel. “I don’t want to be the reason for COVID-19 to be in our community. We take it very seriously.”

Bonspiel explained that Edith (a pseudonym), the person who contracted COVID-19, works at a hospital outside of Kanesatake and most likely contracted the virus at her workplace. At this point, both Bonspiel and the healthcare worker haven’t been made aware of additional cases from the same outbreak. But the public health tracking system contacted everyone that could have been in close contact with Edith.

“This goes to show the dedication of the healthcare professionals, but the first thought was for the safety of others and a sense of guilt, which obviously is unfounded, for possibly having given the virus to others,” said Bonspiel.

Being tested and awaiting the result has rapidly become part of the healthcare professional’s routine. But this time, Edith knew this was something different. It all started with a runny nose. And then a headache that lasted more than 36 hours. Bonspiel said that she initially thought it was a cold, because of the similar symptoms, however, the additional painful legs, sore back and shoulders drained Edith of all her energy.

“That lasted for a few days and right now it’s just extreme fatigue,” said Bonspiel. As healthcare professionals, Bonspiel and Edith knew that they would most likely be confronted with the reality of testing positive for the virus and had already discussed a strategy to handle it.

“It’s really important for people to plan,” said Bonspiel, “and not just fly by the possibility of catching it. Have enough food and toiletries and stuff like that available so that if this happens, you can last for a couple of days until people can take care of you.”

While the FNP director had spent the last 10 months making sure of everyone’s safety around the community, it was his turn to receive help from the ERU. Ironically, Bonspiel became the exact reason why the ERU was first put in place: to make sure that all Kanehsata’kehró:non would get through the pandemic with enough food and support. On Wednesday, Bonspiel received groceries filled with fresh vegetables and fruits.

The ERU spokesperson, who continues to provide Facebook updates live from his house, explained that it was important for him to share the reality of being in quarantine as a learning experience. By showing his situation, he said he wishes to help others understand that this could affect them too.

“What angers and worries me the most is seeing some people not taking this seriously enough or saying that they don’t care what the ERU or government says,” said Bonspiel. “It’s reckless. They don’t understand because they think for whatever reason that this is not going to touch them.”

New COVID-19 Measures

As cases continue to rise, the Quebec government announced its new series of safety measures on Tuesday, December 15.

Starting on December 25, all non-essential stores will be closed until January 11. Most regions, including the Laurentians, have been declared red zones with restaurants, gyms and bars forced to be closed.

The ERU declared that the cannabis stores in Kanesatake will be considered as essential services, following Quebec’s decision to consider the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) as such.

“We are emphasizing to all business owners that they have to do what is necessary to keep their employees, clientele and community safe,” said the ERU spokesperson. “They are the ones that are responsible.”


Virginie Ann, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door