Northern Manitoba chief says people aren’t respecting travel restrictions

Leader says community check stop caught over 1,000 non-essential travellers

Austin Grabish · CBC News · Posted: Oct 13, 2020 6:28 PM CT | Last Updated: 1 hour ago

The Misipawistik Cree Nation set up this check stop and found that many non-essential travellers were still coming into Mantioba’s north. (Muriel Cook/Submitted)

The chief of a northern Manitoba First Nation says visitors are still travelling through her community despite a provincial order banning trips to the north.

Misipawistik Cree Nation Chief Heidi Cook said a community check stop this weekend found 1,773 vehicles passing through her community — and only 629 were considered essential.

“There’s isn’t a lot of awareness. There isn’t even the road sign that there was in the spring telling people that there [are] travel restrictions. So there’s a lot of non-essential travel going both ways,” she said in a phone interview.

Last month, following a call from Indigenous leaders, the province reinstated a travel ban to the north — with some exceptions — as part of an effort to keep COVID-19 out of northern Manitoba communities. 

  • Manitoba running out of ‘targeted tools’ to contain COVID-19 as province hits new daily record

Cook said with nine Manitoba First Nations now reporting COVID-19 cases, she is very worried the virus could get into her community if rules aren’t followed.

“We aren’t any more secure than we were in the spring when we said, you know, like if this gets into our communities, we don’t have the same level of access to health care. We have more vulnerable populations and bigger families. So it’s going to be harder to contain and harder to manage,” Cook said.

Misipawistik Cree Nation Chief Heidi Cook says there are hundreds of people still travelling to the north despite an order preventing travel. (Misipawistik Cree Nation Chief/Submitted)

Cook wants better enforcement of the northern travel ban and increased awareness.

“It’s a little frustrating to be honest, because I don’t think people are doing it intentionally. A lot of times they’re just not aware.”

Nine First Nations report COVID-19 cases

In recent weeks, at least nine different Manitoba First Nations have reported having a COVID-19 case in their community. 

COVID-19 cases a concern in remote Manitoba First Nations

2 days ago1:54Manitoba has seen higher numbers of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks and though most of the cases are around Winnipeg, there is also concern about remote First Nations communities that lack critical resources. 1:54

Peguis First Nation Chief Glenn Hudson said Tuesday his reserve had a total of four active cases and the community has sent 21 people to Winnipeg hotels to isolate.

He said on Sunday more close contacts were identified in Peguis when a positive case was found in Fisher River Cree Nation. “The fact is we’re still at risk,” Hudson said.

Hudson said 10 isolation trailers are expected to arrive on his reserve in the next few weeks. He wants a permanent rapid testing site to be set up in Peguis and supported a call from Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas for a potential field hospital in Little Grand Rapids.

He said such a site would make sense for Peguis, which currently has some — but not extensive — COVID-19 testing ability.

“It would encompass all of those elements of a rapid testing site, isolation site, but also capacities provided like nursing, mental health, wellness, all of that.”

York Landing First Nation Chief Leroy Constant said Tuesday that all seven people who tested positive for COVID-19 in his community have recovered. He said all 96 people who were tested received negative test results. 

Manitoba Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin called a current outbreak on the Little Grand Rapids First Nation concerning at a press conference Tuesday. 

The reserve has dozens of confirmed cases of COVID-19, and residents are being isolated in special heated tents brought in by the federal government.

Source: (Used with permission)