Statement from Chief Nadjiwon

Chief Nadjiwon has prepared a video statement on the Chippewas of Nawash pandemic response, which you can watch here.

The transcript of the statement follows:

In these challenging times, the Chief and Council of Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation would like to speak to members and their families. The COVID-19 pandemic is an historic crisis facing the entire world. The final health and economic impact is still to be determined, but we know that it will be dire and potentially long-lasting. People are justifiably scared for their families and uncertain about the future. We understand these very real concerns and want our members to know that we are doing everything we can to protect the health and well-being of our members. There is no reason to panic and we ask and expect all community members to remain calm. The Chief, Council and administration are completely focussed on steering our community through this crisis with a minimum of harm.

 Illness Prevention

 First, we want to remind everybody how to stay healthy. Best practice right now is to diligently observe social distancing. That means staying home unless you absolutely have to go somewhere. If you do have to leave your home, stay at least 2 metres from other people. Wash your hands frequently and carefully,  and avoid touching your face. If you have to cough, turn away and cover your cough with the pit of your elbow. If you feel at all ill, stay home. If your symptoms worsen or you require other medical assistance, call a telehealth hotline for a medical assessment based on your symptoms.

 Once more: Maintain social distance. Wash frequently. Stay home.

 Chippewas of Nawash Pandemic Response

 If it is not yet absolutely clear to everyone, this is a REAL and VERY SERIOUS crisis. While most people are only mildly affected by the coronavirus, a significant percentage require hospitalization for more serious symptoms, and some of those will die. COVID-19 is extremely contagious and can spread quickly through the population. Even in a small community, widespread infection by COVID-19 will result in more sick people than the medical system can treat. If that happens, some people who could be saved will go untreated and die. We have a large number of elders in our community, and many members have underlying health conditions, that also increase their risk. We must act quickly and decisively to protect the entire community, particularly our most vulnerable.

 Last week, Chief and Council, recognizing our urgent need, declared a state of emergency for Neyaashiinigmiing. We have created a special Community Emergency Response Group – CERG – that has the responsibility of identifying for Chief and Council any extraordinary actions required to protect the community, and working with Council to implement those actions. The CERG is made up of top representatives from administration, fire and emergency response, police, health services, social services and communications. They are meeting regularly to help Council coordinate our response to the pandemic.

 As we manage this complicated situation, the Chief, Council and administration are following the same advice and have moved the bulk of our operations online. We want to ensure the community that we are not sitting idle even though we are less visible in the community. We are meeting daily by teleconference and other electronic means. We are in constant contact and adjusting to the crisis as it develops.

 The highest priority right now is to limit the spread of this virus so that our medical system is not overwhelmed by the number of sick people. This is what is meant by “flattening the curve” of new infections. Many of the actions which follow have this goal in mind.

 Band Office is Closed

 In order to protect the health and welfare of the community, and reduce the chance of infection of critical staff by COVID-19, the Band Office will be closed to the public until further notice. Non-essential band administration and program staff have been asked to stay home and practice social distancing. Essential staff remain on duty and will respond to the public by telephone during regular office hours. Band Office reception will answer calls between the hours of 10 AM and 2 PM.

 While it pains us to close the doors of the Band Office to the general public, it is imperative that our dedicated staff, who are doing so much during this crisis, are protected and able to continue their work on behalf of all of us.

 Cape Croker Park is Closed

 Similarly, we have closed the Cape Croker Park until further notice. Day users, campers and seasonal renters are prohibited until further notice. We all enjoy hosting visitors to our beautiful community and appreciate the work and benefits of having a popular tourism site. Closing the Park is a step that we have taken with great regret and only after much careful discussion.

 Non-resident Visits or Stays are Discouraged

 Protecting the community is the responsibility of every resident. We are requesting everyone’s assistance in limiting the number of trips on and off reserve by residents and non-residents alike. Please do not host gatherings during this critical period, and refrain from inviting guests from outside the community. If you rent or lease a cottage property to a non-member, we ask that you please advise them not to come to Neyaashiinigmiing during this crisis. Neyaashiinigmiing is not a safe haven for non-members to escape possible infection. This is our home and we need to keep the people here safe first, in order to get through this. We look forward to the day when the pandemic is behind us and we can open our doors to welcome visitors and guests again, but at this time all responsible citizens, in Neyaashiinigmiing and the rest of Canada should be sheltering in their primary residences.

 Road Access is Being Limited

 To help us control access to the community, the Sidney Bay entrance to the reserve will be closed until further notice. All access to Neyaashiinigmiing will be through the Coveney’s Road entrance, and limited to residents and essential services only. Essential services include things like emergency services, social services, delivery vehicles, communication services and home maintenance services.

We want to assure everybody that there is no cause for alarm. The community is not quarantined or locked down, at this time. The road closure is simply a measure to reduce the chance of the COVID-19 virus reaching the community. This is incredibly important to the health of the community. Please respect these temporary and reasonable requests to keep our whole community safe during this difficult time. 

Limit Trips On/Off Reserve

 Social distancing and limited travel is inconvenient but the goal is to reduce the chances of the coronavirus reaching our community before the medical system is fully prepared for the impact. Keep in mind that this is not about you, but about your family, friends, neighbours and community. Life goes on, of course, and while we are sheltering in place we all still need supplies that can only be purchased in town. However, residents are advised to limit the number of trips they take to town. When you must travel outside the community, take as few people with you as absolutely necessary and leave your friends and family safe at home. The more people that are mingling outside the community, the greater the chance that one will contract COVID-19 and bring it home to all of us.

 Take Advantage of Social Distancing

We understand that self-isolation is difficult, but urge all Neyaashiinigmiing residents, and all our members across the country to be patient and take heart in the knowledge that this will pass. In the meantime, enjoy the company of the people in your household. Pass the time with books, games, movies and social media. Practice traditional crafts in the extra time you have available. Use social media to stay in contact with friends and family who are elsewhere. Use your cell phone for making actual phone calls again. Let’s not forget about our residents who live alone and may be feeling very isolated right now. Reach out through electronic means and pass the time while making someone else feel less alone. We can do this together.

Bulk Food Shopping Being Arranged

Social distancing and limitations on travel will create more difficulties for some members than others. To help those community members who cannot or should not be out shopping for food and other supplies, we are organizing a bulk shopping system that will shop for members who are staying home and deliver the goods to them. We are preparing dry and cold bulk food storage at the community centre, which will be the distribution hub through the Food Bank program. As well, the Council has approved a contract with the fisherman to purchase a large quantity of fish for distribution to the community.

Economic Support

First, nobody should be going hungry or cold for lack of money during the pandemic crisis. If anyone in the community is in need of economic assistance, please contact Nawash Social Services to determine what sort of government assistance you may qualify for. If you have lost your job, and qualify for unemployment insurance, you should be taking advantage of that immediately. Nawash Social Services is available by phone at 519-534-3753.

If you do not qualify for EI, the federal government has announced a COVID-19 Economic Response Plan that will assist those workers who do not otherwise qualify in the amount of $900 every two weeks. Application for the benefit will begin in April, but we expect some delay before payments actually reach people’s homes. The Chief and Council have approved a plan to support self-employed residents at a similar rate until the federal plan comes online. The details of the Nawash support plan are being finalized, but it will also be administered through Nawash Social Services. We will make more information about the plan, including application details, available soon on the website.

Your Chief, Council and administration is doing everything we can to steer the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation through this unprecedented crisis. We ask the community to remain calm, stay home, and follow the advice of medical professionals to stay healthy. As a community we are strong, flexible and enduring. By supporting each other, following best advice, and remaining patient and calm, we will survive this and rebound quickly when the crisis passes. We are grateful for everything you are doing to help us and your families, neighbours and community.

Miigwech, and thank you for all your support.

Chief Greg Nadjiwon


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