Kaschechewan chief calls for assistance as COVID-19 cases spread

The chief of Kashechewan First Nation says the COVID-19 crisis in his community continues to intensify.

114 cases in community of 2,500, many in children under the age of 18

Kashechewan First Nation has been hit with an rising number of COVID-19 cases. (Erik White/CBC )

The chief of Kashechewan First Nation says the COVID-19 crisis in his community continues to intensify.

Chief Leo Friday says police officers in the community are exhausted trying to deal with security and safety issues in the community, while overcrowding is aggravating the situation.

"Some people are three families, four families in a house," Chief Friday said. "I heard the other day that there's [one house with] 20 people in there."

Chief Friday's calls for military assistance in the remote community have gone unheard, he said.

"I asked for a field hospital at the high school," he said. "And I asked for an isolation centre to be put in place for people coming back from their appointments, after they go for a checkup in Moose Factory and Kingston."

Chief Friday also asked for help from both government and his own community officials to ease the overcrowding issue. 

"It's going to take some time for that to happen," he said. "But it's really slow and the government doesn't want to help." 

Their remedy, Chief Friday said, is to advise the infected people to remain isolated.

Leo Friday is the chief of Kashechewan First Nation. (Radio-Canada/Joël Ashak)

"It's growing because of that. It's not working."

Friday says seven Nishnawbe-Aski Police officers are working around the clock to keep people with behavioural and substance issues as well as others from violating public health guidelines.

"Police are exhausted," he said. "This morning they didn't answer any of my phone calls when I wanted to report an activity. And still the chief of police says we have enough police officers here."

Kashechewan chief Leo Friday says more than 70 cases in the recent COVID-19 surge have been children. (Erik White/CBC )

"But if that's the case, then my calls would have been answered."

He said he's also been trying to get help from the OPP, to little avail. 

The government hasn't provided extra help from the military, either.

"They told us that those people can't go to our community because we have a lot of issues, people that don't listen and people that are under the influence of drugs, alcohol and so forth, they just go ahead and walk around and go visit places."

As for the community, Chief Friday said many people are closed in their houses.

"I feel like I'm in a cell. I can't go any place, just like what the government did to my ancestors. When they gave them a reserve. Stay there, don't go out and do don't do anything outside the reserve."

"I'm just hoping that the military will come and help out my community."

This isn't the only James Bay community dealing with the COVID crisis.

As of 5:00 pm Thursday, Fort Albany was reporting 48 active cases, Moosonee had 24, Moose Factory had six and Attawapiskat was reporting ten active cases of the virus.

With files from Up North