Focus On

Outbreak in Kashechewan First Nation ‘increasingly alarming,’ says Indigenous services minister

Wednesday, June 16, 2021 @ 4:38 PM | By Amanda Jerome


In a press conference on June 16, federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller announced extra funding would be sent to the Kashechewan First Nation in northern Ontario to assist with a COVID-19 outbreak that is impacting the community’s youth.

Miller said the situation in Kashechewan First Nation is “increasingly alarming.”

“At this time, we are aware of 232 active cases, a majority of which are among children that are 12 years old and under, those who are not eligible yet for the vaccine, or children 18 and under who either had a first dose or who haven’t had the opportunity to get that first dose. Our government continues to work, and urgently so, with community leaders and other partners including Mushkegowuk Tribal Council, Weeneebayko Health Authority and other federal and provincial government departments,” he said, noting that this past Sunday, delegates from Indigenous Services Canada, the Canadian Armed Forces and the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority were “on the ground to perform further in-person assessments of immediate needs alongside community members.”

Miller announced that “$453,000 in emergency support funding was allocated to Kashechewan.” The First Nation is on the western side of James Bay and the northern shore of the Albany River.

“The additional funding will support food, supplies, transport, personal protective equipment, a pandemic response co-ordinator, quarantine officers, COVID-19 screeners and testing personnel, security and communications material. This funding is in addition to the $7.6 million that had previously been allocated to the community since the onset of the pandemic,” he added.

Miller said that are “currently 15 nurses and three paramedics onsite,” as well as 16 Red Cross members in the community “to assist with food distribution as well as to prepare further isolation units.”

“Thankfully the high vaccination rate in adults, with both first and second doses, has provided a firewall for the most elderly, and as we know the most vulnerable, but this does clearly remain an alarming situation,” he stressed.

Miller said he’s been in continuous communication with Chief Leo Friday of Kashechewan First Nation as the situation evolves to ensure adequate supports are in place as required.

“This outbreak is a sad reminder that COVID is still here and is very dangerous, particularly if you have not been vaccinated,” he said.

Regarding COVID-19 numbers across the country, Miller said “as of June 15 in Indigenous communities on reserve we’re aware of 889 active cases. This brings us to 31,163 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases since the onset of the pandemic.”

He noted there are over 29,000 recovered cases and “tragically, 353 deaths.”

In terms of vaccination numbers, Miller said, as of June 5 “we’re aware of 687 Indigenous communities with vaccinations underway.”

If you have any information, story ideas or news tips for The Lawyer’s Daily please contact Amanda Jerome at Amanda.Jerome@lexisnexis.ca or call 416-524-2152.