Two Sask. First Nations on lockdown or banning travel to prevent spread of COVID-19

Two First Nations in Saskatchewan are taking their own measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their communities.

Pelican Narrows, which is part of Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation, enacted a lockdown on March 21, in effect until further notice. Highway Hotline says travel is banned to Fond Du Lac Denesuline Nation starting March 20. You can travel through but cannot stop or access services. 

Peter Ballantyne Chief Peter Beatty said it's a proactive move on the part of council.

"We're highly aware of what might happen if a case were to enter there without our knowledge or if the reaction time was too slow and it was spread through the community. It could have devastating impacts," Beatty said.

Beatty said Indigenous communities are more vulnerable to an outbreak due to overcrowding, weak health infrastructure and running water issues on reserve.

"If they don't have running water, how are you going to wash your hands on a regular basis?" Beatty said. 

"It's a systematic failure on the part of the federal government. ... There was a section there [in the federal COVID-19 plan] that there would be a few million going to the First Nations and the Inuit and Métis. But when you break that down, it doesn't really seem like much on a national scale."

Beatty said he hopes that money is only the beginning in terms of support for First Nations from the federal government.

Shut provincial borders: FSIN

Meanwhile, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations is calling on Premier Scott Moe to close the provincial borders to slow the spread of the virus.

"The traffic on our highways coming in and out of the provincial borders continues to put everyone in Saskatchewan at unnecessary risk," FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said in a news release.

"Travelers from all over Canada continue to travel into Saskatchewan and could be unknowingly transmitting COVID-19." 

So far, the province has not said they will close provincial borders. 

"We are dealing with an invisible enemy and every Saskatchewan resident, First Nations and non-First Nation, must do everything necessary to protect everyone within our region," Cameron said.