Sudbury

'Mixed feelings' as some northern Ontario First Nations ease border restrictions

Some First Nations in northeastern Ontario have re-opened their borders as COVID-19 numbers drop, others are keeping checkpoints up but allowing more people to travel through them.

At least 18 First Nations in northeastern Ontario had restricted travel in and out of their territory

Some First Nations in northeastern Ontario have taken down their border crossing as COVID-19 fears ease, but others are keeping restrictions in place. (Erik White/CBC)

Some First Nations in northeastern Ontario have re-opened their borders as COVID-19 numbers drop, others are keeping checkpoints up but allowing more people to travel through them. 

M'Chigeeng was stopping traffic on provincial highways in and out of the Manitoulin Island community until last week. 

No one from the First Nation has been made available for interviews, despite repeated requests from the CBC. 

Lisa Corbiere-Addison, a M'Chigeeng citizen who owns a garage in the community, is unhappy that the checkpoints have been replaced with signs telling drivers not to stop in the First Nation. 

The highway checkpoints have come down in M'Chigeeng and been replaced with signs telling drivers not to stop in the First Nation. (Lisa Corbiere-Addison)

"It's already had a great affect on every business here in M'Chigeeng. People feel they're breaking the law when they stop at our businesses," she says.

Mattagami First Nation still has a border checkpoint on the access road into the community of about 200 off of Highway 144.

Councillor Jennifer Constant says at first all visitors were turned away and families were only permitted one trip out of the community per week to Sudbury or Timmins.

She says people can now travel anywhere in Ontario except for the Toronto area and band members are allowed to visit, as long as they don't live in the Greater Toronto Area where dozens of new COVID cases are reported every day.

"We have members who do live in the GTA area and want to come back to visit family," says Constant.

"It's really hard on everyone. Even in the community."

Mattagami First Nation is now allowing community members to travel more freely, but they are restricted from visiting the Toronto area and most outsiders are still not allowed to cross the border. (Facebook )

Taykwa Tagamou Nation near Cochrane has had checkpoints up since March, with volunteers asking citizens where they are heading and turning most visitors away.

Councillor Derek Archibald says they have decided to now allow band members to visit immediate family on the reserve at certain times of the day. 

"Everyone's having mixed feelings, feeling that it's a little too early to ease restrictions, but at our council level, we made a compromise," he says.

Many other First Nations in the north have not restricted travel in and out of their communities.

Several are focused on educating people about how to stop the spread of the virus. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca

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