Aboriginal Services Minister Mark Miller said today that if Ottawa provides more housing before the outbreak, the COVID-19 outbreak in remote Aboriginals in northern Ontario will not be so severe.
Kashechewan is a Cree community located off the west coast of James Bay. There are approximately 1,800 people. Last month, more than 300 members were reported to be infected with COVID-19.
Leo Friday has repeatedly blamed the crisis on overcrowding, which was driven by the spread of the highly spread Alpha variant.
“He is absolutely correct,” Miller said.
“There is investment. Obviously not enough.”
It was said on Friday that as many as two dozen people share the same house in Kashechewan and 200 people are on the housing waiting list.
He said that if there were more houses, the virus would not spread so fast, and the current emergency could have been avoided.
“We tried and tried to get more housing,” said Friday. “I would like to invite the minister to visit our community and see how it is going.”
Minister called the number of infected young people “horrible”
Miller’s office said that the Canadian Indigenous Services Department has provided Kashechewan with more than 4.3 million Canadian dollars this year to meet housing needs and is funding a new 20-unit housing project.
It also stated that the department spent more than US$49 million to build 52 elevated duplex houses between 2015 and 2017 to replace flood-damaged houses and reduce overcrowding.
But Friday said the urgent need for housing exceeded the funding provided.
Miller said that as of Tuesday, Aboriginal Services Canada is aware of 87 active cases and 215 recovered COVID-19 cases in the community. He said that since June 15th, Kashechewan’s cases have been reduced by more than 65%.
The vast majority of people who test positive in the community are unvaccinated young people.
“This is terrible,” Miller said.
It was said on Friday that many young people who were infected had asthma because they lived in moldy houses.
“I am particularly worried about my children because there are too many people in my family,” said Friday.
Additional military support was deployed to the community last week. Miller said the ground personnel included 17 nurses, 4 paramedics, 10 mental health providers, 16 Canadian Red Cross team members, 14 Canadian Rangers and 13 Canadian Armed Forces soldiers.
Miller said the military has set up temporary isolation units, including six medical domes used to isolate and treat patients.
It said on Friday that the military is delivering mail and drugs to communities that are still under lockdown.
The COVID-19 outbreak broke out in person on Friday. His 40-year-old nephew was in a coma after being infected in a hospital in Sudbury, Ontario.
“He may not succeed, and the doctor doesn’t know what will happen,” said Friday.
The chief is still waiting for the coroner’s report on whether a man in his 40s died on Tuesday due to COVID-19.
Friday said that at least 15 community members were airlifted out of Kashechewan for treatment.
Chief wants to speed up the relocation plan
Evacuation is common in the community and is threatened by flooding caused by the spring ice burst of the Albany River every year.
For decades, Kashechwan has been calling for relocation. Has selected a location approximately 30 kilometers south of its current location.
community Signed framework agreements with Ottawa and Ontario in 2019 Plan to relocate.
Miller’s office stated that it is discussing the transfer of provincial lands to Canada in order to designate them as Kashechewan reservations with the province and neighboring natives of Fort Albany.
The department also stated that it is working with the community to hire a project manager for the detailed planning phase.
A statement from Miller’s office said: “In the context of seasonal flooding and COVID-19, the health and safety of Kaschevan and Fort Albany is our top priority.”
“We remain committed to working with the two communities on their respective priorities.”
Miller said he was in talks with Friday to speed up the relocation plan, which was slowed down by the pandemic.
On Friday he said he would like to see the government take faster action.
“It won’t go anywhere,” said Friday. “It’s really difficult for people who want to move to a better place to live.”