Tk’emlups te Secwépemc has been working in “crisis management mode” amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Tk’emlups Chief Rosanne Casimir told KTW that although the band has no known cases of COVID-19, it is feeling the impacts of the pandemic and has put in place measures to curb the spread and help residents, who Casimir said have been abiding by physical-distancing measures, including the postponement of general band meetings.
“I know that we’re definitely on the right track and that members are truly listening to what they hear on the news, what they’re hearing from each other,” Casimir said.
She said the band has been working to assess its situation, plan assistance and protect employees. In anticipation of a decline in revenue, Tk’emlups has laid off 35 per cent of its 200 staff members.
“We’re still continuing to pay benefits because we don’t want to be putting more hardship and undue stress,” Casimir said. “Our hope is, you know what, COVID-19 is going to lift and we’ll be able to reassess where we’re at. But I know where we are right now is, we’re still in the middle.”
Band projects have also been impacted. Casimir said contracts about to expire have not been renewed, while staff are monitoring freshet and snow melt, with those types of services to continue, in addition to agriculture.
Meanwhile, assistance initiatives underway include a rental increase and eviction freeze, food packages for the band’s most vulnerable, financial aid for residents older than 18 and an outreach program for elders, who are particular vulnerable to the novel coronavirus. Casimir said the pandemic has been difficult for band members, especially elders.
“But we’ve been working and are starting to make things better, incorporating an outreach program for them, who are most vulnerable, and making sure the ones that do not have access to telephone and internet, that we have someone reaching out to them and there’s this continual flow of information and exactly what’s happening,” Casimir said.
Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian and Casimir recently released a joint video, outlining response measures to the pandemic and continued communication between the band and city. A community-to-community forum between the two governments was cancelled due to COVID-19.
Casimir said the two leaders continue to stay in touch on a regular basis.
“We have an excellent relationship with the City of Kamloops,” she said. “At any time, between the mayor and myself, we will send each other texts. I have reached out sometimes in regards to some questions. Some of our joint services include fire, RCMP, transit and we also have agreements, as well. Those types of things are on a continual basis. They have a very significant emergency operations centre, compared to us. Definitely, collaboration between their team and our team. On the technical side, they’re very much in contact.”
Casimir, who said she is in good health, added she has been learning to manage meetings digitally amid the pandemic. When reached by KTW, she was at the band office.
Though Casimir said the band is on the right track, she stressed the importance to band members and Kamloops residents alike not to let up with physical distancing and other measures urged by health experts.
“Let’s keep up our current health record of no COVID-19 cases within our community,” she said. “We’re all doing this together. Let’s continue doing that.”