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Secwépemc Nation calls for better notification processes of COVID-19

Some members of the Secwépemc Nation are calling for better protocols for notifying First Nations of COVID-19 cases.
Judy Wilson
Neskonlith Indian Band Chief Judy Wilson.

Some members of the Secwépemc Nation are calling for better protocols for notifying First Nations of COVID-19 cases.

Chief Judy Wilson of the Neskonlith Indian Band said the Chase-area band was not properly notified by Interior Health about a confirmed COVID-19 case within the community and had to do its own inquiring to get confirmation of the case.

“The lack of communication to our band about confirmed COVID-19 cases is unacceptable,” Wilson said. “Our communities raised concerns about notification at the start of COVID-19, which have not yet been resolved, meaning our members do not have the opportunity to proactively increase their personal, family and community precautions against COVID-19.”

She noted that First Nations COVID-19 cases are on the rise in B.C.

The First Nations Health Authority received notice of 67 new cases, which is double the number of cases in August last month, 40 per cent of which are on reserve, she said.

Wilson said there was a two- to three-day delay by Interior Health in notifying the First Nations Health Authority’s (FNHA) chief medical officer, who in turn notifies a band’s health lead and chief of a positive COVID-19 case. No names are provided.

“There are community level gaps in communications and the FNHA is committed to addressing gaps. When testing individuals, people are only asked to provide their MSP card and are not asked if they are First Nations. In order for First Nations to be properly prepared and notified, we need these gaps addressed immediately,” Wilson said.

Wilson requested that IHA and FNHA provide an interim solution for a culturally appropriate contact tracing that would involve band members. This would, she said, expedite contact tracing with the goal of mitigating and managing community health and safety.

“Mechanisms are needed such as an operational level protocol between First Nations and the province on real-time notification on cases, contact tracing, community notice, testing capacity and processes,” Wilson said.

Interior Health was not able to provide an immediate response.

Chief Oliver Arnouse of Little Shuswap Band and Chief Wayne Christian of the Splatsin Band reiterated Wilson’s requests.

“The Secwépemc Kukukwipi7 will uphold our sacred responsibilities for the health and safety of the Secwépemc Nation and exercise our collective rights as committed to in our Secwépemc Declaration of State of Emergency signed March 23, 2020,” Arnouse said.

Christian called on the province to comply with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the federal government to uphold its constitutional and fiduciary obligations to the Secwépemc Nation of rights to equal protection and equal benefits without discrimination.

“Our Secwépemc families deserve adequate resources and culturally appropriate responses to COVID-19,” Christian said.