Hamilton

Six Nations confirms 2 cases of COVID-19, but still plans 'checkpoints' to stop visitors

Six Nations has its first two cases of COVID-19 on the territory, but still plans to conduct "community checkpoints" this week to stop non-residents from entering the area.

'If you're here for shopping or recreation, you're going to be asked to turn around'

"We need each and every one of us to work together to save lives," says Chief Mark Hill of Six Nations, shown on March 13, the day the First Nation declared a state of emergency. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Six Nations has its first two cases of COVID-19 on the territory, but still plans to conduct "community checkpoints" this week to stop non-residents from entering the area.

Chief Mark Hill says Ohsweken Public Health is tracing people who have been in contact with the two residents, who are both in self-quarantine.

"The COVID-19 virus is here in Six Nations of the Grand River," Hill said in a video update Sunday. He also called on smoke shops to close and gas stations to stop selling cigarettes. Despite the province and Six Nations emergency response team ordering all non-essential businesses to close, cigarette shops are open and busy.

"As I drove in to the radio station today, I [saw] nothing but lines … of people buying cigarettes," Hill said. "I'd like to question, what is more important at this point, the sale of cigarettes and money or the health and safety of our community?"

"We’re coming up with all this stuff from scratch," says public works director Michael Montour. "That reflects the seriousness of it." (sixnationscovid19.ca)

Hill announced late last week a plan to erect barricades to stop non-members from entering Six Nations for shopping or recreation. Hill modified that language this weekend, instead calling them "checkpoints."

The checkpoints will be installed Monday and Tuesday at eight locations and Six Nations is asking for volunteers to staff them.

"If you're here for shopping or recreation, you're going to be asked to turn around," said Michael Montour, public works director. "That's as simple as we can make it."

"We're going to have people asking you to turn around out of respect for our community."

Montour said a map will be distributed showing checkpoint locations. These steps are unprecedented, he said, but "this is an unprecedented time."

"We wouldn't be doing this if it wasn't about life and death."

Elected council and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council are working together on the initiative, called Project Protect Our Elders. The two councils — one implemented in 1924, the other before colonialization — have at times been at odds. 

"It's time to set all differences aside," Hill said, "and just be there for each other and protect our community."

As for surrounding communities, Hamilton has 52 confirmed cases and one death as of noon Saturday. Brant County and Brantford have eight combined and Haldimand-Norfolk has eight confirmed cases and one death. 

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

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