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White River First Nation calls for harsher penalty for Vancouver residents who broke COVID-19 rules

White River First Nation in Beaver Creek, Yukon, is calling for a harsher penalty against two Vancouver residents who broke COVID-19 rules and got vaccinated in the community.

Pair broke self-isolation and got vaccinated in Beaver Creek, Yukon, resulting in charges

Beaver Creek, Yukon is located near the Alaska border. In a statement on Saturday, White River First Nation Chief Angela Demit said the First Nation was selected for vaccines early on because of its remoteness, its elderly and high-risk population, and its access to health care. (CBC)

White River First Nation in Beaver Creek, Yukon, is calling for a harsher penalty against two Vancouver residents who broke COVID-19 rules and got vaccinated in the community.

The pair face a maximum fine of $500 or six months in jail, or both, after they were charged last week under Yukon's Civil Emergency Measures Act — for failing to self-isolate after entering the territory, and for failing to follow a declaration, after they travelled to Beaver Creek and got doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in January.

The man and woman "put our elders and vulnerable people at risk to jump the line for selfish purposes," Chief Angela Demit of White River First Nation (WRFN), said in a statement on Saturday. 

"While we understand many want to have a vaccination immediately, it is not appropriate to skirt the rules put in place and approach our community in this way. WRFN was selected for vaccines given our remoteness, elderly and high-risk population, as well as limited access to health care."

'Lenient punishment'

WRFN said it does not feel that the "lenient punishment" applicable is appropriate for the gravity of the accused's actions, "given the potentially lethal effects to our community." 

It urged the Yukon government and the RCMP to pursue a "more just punishment."

White River First Nation also expressed frustration with how the Yukon government communicated about the violation. Instead of finding out about it from the government, the First Nation said it learned about the incident through the media.

WRFN said it will seek a "formalized communication protocol" with the Yukon government so that something like this doesn't happen again.

'Deeply concerning'

Community Services Minister John Streicker called the incident in Beaver Creek "deeply concerning for a number of reasons."

"We regret the way White River learned about this incident and agree on the need for closer communication going forward," he said in an emailed statement.

"This was a rapidly developing situation. Yukon government enforcement officials acted swiftly to charge the two individuals for violating the measures in place under the Civil Emergency Measures Act."

He said the RCMP was also immediately notified about the situation. 

Streicker said he and Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon's chief medical officer of health, met with White River First Nation's chief and members of its council on Friday to discuss the incident and improving communication protocols.

The First Nation commended Hanley for addressing concerns with the community directly, and for his work to "resolve the issue moving forward."

White River First Nation said it plans to implement its own safety regulations for the second round of vaccinations in the community.

It reminded residents to continue following public health guidance, and said Hanley had assured the risk for transmission in the community right now is low.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story stated that the maximum penalty for a violation under Yukon's Civil Emergency Measures Act is a fine of $500 or six months in jail. In fact, it can also be both.
    Jan 25, 2021 9:48 AM CT

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