Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald encourages people to stay home and be calm as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise across the province and country, including four confirmed cases in the Timmins area.
“I want to talk to people — if I could talk to every person in Ontario that is a First Nation (citizen), I would ask them to go home and stay home,” Archibald says. “I would ask them to be calm and to know that they are loved and they will be taken care of by their leadership. They have to follow the guidelines that are being set so we can slow the spread of this virus. The virus can’t move if we don’t move, so we have to stay home, we have to wash our hands regularly with soap and water or alcohol-based solutions.”
Archibald adds that people need to avoid touching their faces, clean surfaces and stay six feet apart.
“We have to look out for each other,” Archibald says. “We have to think about other people in this moment — this is a moment for us to wake up and be awake and to understand the sacred connection that we all have to each other, and that sacred connection has to be based in a deep and abiding love and care for each other during this time. So please stay home.”
Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler also emphasized the importance of staying home during his March 24 address on the Wawatay Radio Network.
“We need to limit our movements at the community level,” Fiddler says. “And we are also recommending to the chiefs and councils to start limiting public gatherings — to limit the number of people that should be at the store for example or even at church.”
Fiddler also stressed the importance of staying six feet apart from another person.
“It is so important that we continue to abide by these public health practices,” Fiddler says.
Fiddler adds that many Nishnawbe Aski Nation communities are now looking at “closing down their communities to outsiders.”
Premier Doug Ford also ordered a mandatory closure of all non-essential workplaces, effective March 24 at 11:59 p.m., for 14 days with the possibility of an extension of the order as the situation evolves.
“This was a tough decision, but the right decision, as this is no time for half measures,” Ford says. “But I have said from day one we will, and we must, take all steps necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19. The health and safety of every Ontarian must come first. The health of you, your children, your grandparents and friends depends on all of us doing our part.”
The provincial government states that essential businesses include, but are not limited to, grocery stores and pharmacies, telecommunications and IT infrastructure service providers and businesses that support power generation, natural gas distribution and clean drinking water. A list of essential workplaces is located online at: https://www.ontario.ca/page/list-essential-workplaces?_ga=2.9480309.1125....
“While this was a difficult decision, we trust that Ontario’s business leaders will be able to promote safety while carrying out business and protecting jobs,” Ford says. “The grocery store clerks, transit and hydro workers and truckers are out there on the front lines making sure the people of Ontario continue to have access to the products and services they need. It is essential that their workplaces be kept as safe as possible so these local heroes can return home to their families worry free.”
Archibald has also been encouraging First Nations to “lock down their communities” due to concerns about COVID-19.
“I also have been reiterating some of what the health experts are saying — washing your hands, not touching your face, cleaning surfaces, physically distancing by at least six feet, staying home,” Archibald says. “This is a very critical time and it is important for us to do this collectively so that we can maintain our health and save lives and lessen the burden on the health system that’s just frankly not ready.”
Archibald says First Nation communities are doing the best they can under the current circumstances.
“Everybody is working on finishing their pandemic plans, they’re updating their plans because the pandemic plan is really a path forward for communities,” Archibald says. “It gives them guidance on what are the steps they are going to take at different stages of the pandemic. Right now we have zero cases in First Nation communities but we have 18 firefighters that are in self-isolation in Six Nations of the Grand River and they are waiting for test results.”