COVID 19: Secwépemc Nation calls for better notification processes

Chiefs say alerts for First Nations bands from province, Interior Health flawed

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

Kukpi7 (Chief) Judy Wilson of the Neskonlith Band said in a Sept. 21 news release that the band was not properly notified by the Interior Health Authority 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,” said Wilson. “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 200 per cent over last month, 40 per cent on reserve, she said.

The news release stated there was a two- to three-day delay by the Interior Health Authority in notifying the First Nations Health Authority (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.

Read more: First Nation on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast locks down after four confirmed COVID-19 cases

Read more: Little Shuswap Lake Band confirms case of COVID-19

“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,” the release continued.

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

Kukpi7 Wilson concluded: “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.”

Interior Health was not able to provide an immediate response.

Kukpi7 (Chief) Oliver Arnouse of Little Shuswap Band and Kukpi7 Wayne Christian of the Splatsin Band reiterated Wilson’s requests.

Arnouse stated: “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.”

Christian called on the province of B.C. to comply with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Government of Canada 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.
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