Ontario Regional Chief encourages First Nation communities to close borders

The Ontario Regional Chief is encouraging everyone to stay home to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Several First Nations have set up checkpoints to screen people coming in

The Ontario Regional Chief is encouraging everyone to stay home to help slow the spread of COVID-19 — and would like to see First Nations limit access to their communities. 

"This is a virus that cannot move on its own," RoseAnne Archibald said. "It moves through us and if we're moving, then the virus is moving and spreading."

Archibald said people need to stay home.

"What we're being told by science and health experts is that we have to stay home and physically distance ourselves from each other," she said.

"There are directives we are getting as a society — all of us, not just First Nations — that can help protect each other."

Archibald said Indigenous people are already "high-risk" because of social determinants of health. She added some communities are dealing with poor housing, not having access to clean drinking water and overcrowding.

"You can't socially distance or physically distance if you have 20 people in one household," she said.

"So there are a lot of factors that create an overall high risk for First Nations to have tragic outcomes from this particular pandemic."

Limiting access

Archibald said it's important for First Nations to start limiting access to their communities.

"To place 'shelter in place' orders which basically means everybody stays home," she said.

"We need those kind of directives in our communities. If we can halt that virus at the border of our communities, then we can slow the spread."

RoseAnne Archibald is the Ontario Regional Chief. (Submitted by Laura Barrios)

Some communities have already taken those steps. On Monday night, Atikameksheng Anishnawbek band council voted to close the road into the community, except for people who live and work there.

Chief Valerie Richer said community members were concerned with an increase in traffic from people looking for open stores.

On Wednesday, Wahnapitae First Nation announced it will build a structure to close the access point at West Bay Road and Loonway Road. It added people are taking shifts at another access point into the community.

Archibald says she's heard of 34 communities locking down so far.

"This is a very serious situation and we have to help each other," she said.

"This is the time for us to come together in our own communities … and we have to look out for each other. We have to stay home."