Indigenous communities impose curfews, set up checkpoints to keep out COVID-19
Leaders concerned outsiders will bring virus into communities
Some Indigenous leaders in B.C. are taking matters into their own hands when it comes to minimizing the spread of COVID-19 within their communities.
The Witset First Nation has set up checkpoints outside of the community to monitor who goes in and out. Only members are allowed to enter the community, and they can only leave to go to work or pick up essential supplies.
"We have some [members] that didn't like it at first, but now they understand," said Lucy Gagnon, executive director of the Witset First Nation.
"I think more and more people are aware that we have to work together. Right now, it's just adding on a few minutes to your day to go to a checkpoint."
The Witset First Nation has also imposed a curfew for residents from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Both the curfew and the checkpoints will be reviewed on April 17, but those measures are in place indefinitely.
An even tighter curfew has been implemented for members of the Nak'azdli First Nation; they have to stay home between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.
On Saturday afternoon, the Heiltsuk Nation turned away two sailboats en route to Alaska, and has issued a bylaw banning non-residents and non-Heiltsuk from entering its territory.
Similarly, the Haida Nation put out a statement asking people to refrain from visiting its islands.
Chief Alexander McKinnon of the Nak'azdli First Nation is worried about his community getting sick, because its territory is along a highway, and travellers could bring the virus into gas stations or the grocery store.
Last week, B.C.'s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry discouraged travel to smaller communities that lack the resources to support full-time community members should they get sick.
Gagnon is concerned that the local hospital wouldn't be able to accommodate even five people if they were to fall ill.
"That would be worrisome," she said.
"We need to keep outsiders away from our community."
With files from Matt Allen