Wapekeka and Muskrat Dam declared state of emergencies in accordance with the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act R.S.O. 1990 6.E.9.5.4.(1) on March 18 and 19 due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Wapekeka declared its State of Emergency on March 19 to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of its citizens.
“We had requested protective equipment, hand sanitizers, rubber gloves, masks and we have not received any since last week,” says Joshua Frogg, band manager with Wapekeka. “We just don’t have any. There may be some supplies at the nursing station but we have a number of buildings in the community that require them. And we have no dispensers as well.”
Wapekeka’s state of emergency notice states it is advising all government bodies and providing said notice, due to its isolated and remote location, that this is a call for assistance, resources, proactive actions and immediate relief.
“We really have limited options in terms of protecting ourselves from a virus when we have no sanitizers at any of the buildings, at worksites, et cetera,” Frogg says.
Wapekeka also states that it has ordered bulk supplies of dry goods, sanitary supplies, baby supplies and other foods.
“The government has identified millions of dollars for First Nations people,” Frogg says. “We have regular conference calls through Nishnawbe Aski Nation and as of yesterday they had no mechanism how to distribute that money, so rather than wait for them to act we are just using our own resources … to tackle the pandemic.”
Wapekeka’s hunters, trappers and fishers have also started to gather traditional foods and medicines from the land at the community’s own cost.
“They are hunting moose and caribou and some people are setting up fishnets,” Frogg says. “We’ve started that process using our own resources and existing programs like Choose Life. The fuel is a cost — we are keeping track of our expenses. When that government money becomes available, then we can put in for reimbursement if that is allowed.”
Frogg says the community has also restricted people from travelling out to attend meetings or any other business activities. They have also asked contractors to screen their employees before they travel to Wapekeka.
“We’re building a new school here in Wapekeka this summer, we are also building a water and sewer line to a different section of the community, we’re building new teacherages, we’re building a new garage and we have some existing work that had started last summer, so we are asking all the contractors to properly screen their employees before they come on site,” Frogg says. “And for the moment we are asking them to have a distance from interacting with our people, not to enter premises.”
Frogg says the community’s school has been suspended until further notice.
Muskrat Dam declared a State of Emergency on March 18, which allows for only essential travel in and out of the community. Winter road travellers from other communities are also not being allowed to stop in the community at the store or for fuel or visits.
“We’ve been advised by the people of the community to take these measures in light of the COVID-19 alert,” says Muskrat Dam Chief Vernon Morris. “In Muskrat Dam all we have is a small health centre and two nurses, so … we have to take these precautionary measures very seriously and we have to prepare accordingly.”
The declaration also calls for all service delivery personnel to avoid interacting with citizens — they must drop off their load at the designated area and leave.
All citizens who return to Muskrat Dam by air or winter road must also go directly to their residence and contact the nurse for screening or clearance, and people who travelled from COVID-19 hotspots must self-isolate for 14 days.