Indigenous

Long Point First Nation calls on Quebec, Ottawa for public security assistance

As the number of First Nations in Quebec declaring states of emergency grows in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, one Algonquin community in western Quebec is calling on the federal and provincial governments to assist with public security concerns.

'The virus is knocking at our door. We need support now, and we’re not getting it,' says Long Point chief

Long Point First Nation Chief Steeve Mathias, centre, is calling for help from Quebec's provincial police or the Canadian Armed Forces in enforcing compliance with measures its council adopted on Sunday, declaring a 20-day state of emergency in the Algonquin community in western Quebec. (Long Point First Nation Government/Facebook)

As the number of First Nations in Quebec declaring states of emergency grows in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, one Algonquin community in western Quebec is calling on the federal and provincial governments to assist with public security concerns.

Long Point First Nation Chief Steeve Mathias said the Sûreté du Québec needs to increase its presence on the territory, or they want the RCMP or the Canadian Armed Forces temporarily deployed for assistance in protecting its members residing in Winneway, Que., about 600 kilometres northwest of Montreal, near Val-d'Or.

"The virus is knocking at our door. We need support now, and we're not getting it," he said.

The request for help would be to enforce compliance with measures the council adopted on Sunday, declaring a 20-day state of emergency in the Algonquin community in western Quebec. It includes a curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., and a ban on travel by community members outside of the territory, with the exception of medical appointments, emergencies, and getting food. 

Roadside checkpoints have also been set up to prohibit non-members and visitors entering the community, with the exception of essential service providers.

"We're so closely related and connected through our family ties and friendship that keeping social distance is not a part of our culture at all. That's what is so challenging right now," said Mathias.

"We can send memos, we can pass resolutions at the council level but they're not complying and that's what is so frustrating."

While he said the majority of Winneway's 500-or-so residents are abiding by the measures, he said some have not been taking them seriously.

Long Point does not have its own police service as its tripartite agreement under the First Nations Policing Program ended in 2006. Mathias said the SQ are not present enough and take a long time to respond to calls.

"Long Point is being left to its own devices. This is unacceptable and intolerable," said Mathias.

"The governments must assume their responsibilities and come help us deal with this crisis that is affecting us all and forcing us to take exceptional measures to ensure the health and safety of our members."

The SQ has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Quebec's Indigenous affairs minister Sylvie D'Amours said she is aware of Long Point's concerns.

"I have made sure that this issue was shared with the Ministry of Public Security and both our administrations are currently working on an appropriate solution as quickly as possible," she said in a statement.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ka’nhehsí:io Deer is a Kanien’kehá:ka journalist from Kahnawake, Que. She is currently a reporter with CBC Indigenous covering communities across Quebec. Email her at kanhehsiio.deer@cbc.ca

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