'They've just been happy to have us': Canadian soldiers combatting COVID-19 in Kashechewan

COVID-19 continues to retreat in the James Bay community of Kashechewan and the fading away of the outbreak is partly thanks to the work of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Soldiers focused on building tent frames and domed isolation units that will stay when they fly out

A dozen members of the Canadian Armed Forces immediate response unit, plus about 20 Canadian Rangers, are helping combat COVID-19 in the James Bay community of Kashechewan. (Canadian Armed Forces)

COVID-19 continues to retreat in the remote community of Kashechewan on Ontario's James Bay Coast. 

An outbreak last week saw over 300 people infected with coronavirus, most of them unvaccinated children.

As of June 23, that has dropped down to 87 active cases.

The Canadian Armed Forces' 12-member immediate response unit arrived last week and is working with about 20 local Canadian Rangers to help build isolation shelters and deliver supplies to the community of 1,900.

"They've been grateful," says Master Cpl. Jason Lane. 

Canadian soldiers and rangers in Kashechewan have been focused on building shelters so those infected with COVID can isolate somewhere other than their crowded homes. (Canadian Armed Forces)

"We don't interact with them because for one, they're self-isolating and obviously for social distancing, but they've been grateful to see us up here. Yeah, they've just been happy to have us."

Lane says they've been focused on delivering food and other supplies to Kashechewan families isolating in their homes.

They've also been putting together canvas tents and domed structures for self-isolation, which will be staying behind when the military flies out. 

Lane says it's always tricky to know when their job is done. 

"It's never easy to tell," he says. 

"But the numbers have been significantly dropping for sure. It's an ongoing, day-by-day kind of thing and we'll keep doing our thing."


Erik White


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