Gowling WLG, the legal firm handling the Indian Day School Class Action lawsuit, has been holding Community Assistance Sessions in First Nation communities to aid residents in registering as a class member in the lawsuit. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gowling WLF has suspended in-person Community Assistance Sessions, but will be holding online sessions by teleconference. There are two scheduled for the Ontario/Quebec audience this week, on April 14 and April 16, at 4:00 PM. You can find more information and register for the sessions at the Indian Day School Class Action website.
Health officials in the community, as well as the Chief and Council, are very concerned that some community members are not taking the social distance directive seriously. Numerous reports have reached the administration of residents gathering together socially or sharing a vehicle for trips off the reserve. For the safety of all of us, this must stop.
COVID-19 viral infection is a dangerous illness. Initial reports about the virus suggested that it was only a disease of the old or infirm, and that young or healthy people had little to fear. This is simply not true. While many infected people exhibit minor or no symptoms, the disease is serious and often debilitating, even for those who don’t require hospitalization. It can be much worse, or fatal, for the elderly or those with an existing condition like diabetes. The virus is also highly contagious and can be spread by someone showing no symptoms at all.
We are fortunate that there have been no COVID-19 cases identified in Neyaashiinigmiing yet, and we understand that it is difficult to stay away from friends and relations for such an extended period of time when there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong.
Community and social gathering is an important part of our cultural identity. We have survived as a nation because of the strength of our bonds to all our relations, those of blood and those of community. We instinctively draw together in times of trouble.
This is a critical time, however, and we must be strong in a different way. The virus is spreading into the Grey-Bruce area and we are extremely concerned about it reaching the reserve. The only way we can protect our relations is by staying away from them. Symptoms of infection are slow to appear in an infected person, and are sometimes very minimal, but the person is still contagious. We simply cannot assume that we are not infected, or that a friend without symptoms is not infected. We must act, at all times, as if we are already infected and just don’t know it yet.
With the number of vulnerable people in our community, and our limited resources, a COVID-19 outbreak in Neyaashiinigmiing would be devastating. There is no vaccine for COVID-19, nor is there a proven specific treatment. The Chief and Council implore all residents to take this crisis seriously. Lives depend on it. None of us wants to be the one that ignored the warnings and spread a fatal disease to a loved one or community member.
We ask that all residents refrain from gathering with people from outside your household. Remember that there is currently a province wide ban on gatherings of more than 5 people from outside your household.
Limit your trips off the reserve to emergencies or medically necessary appointments only. If you must drive with someone from outside your household, have no more than two people in the vehicle, including the driver. Make use of the Food Bank and other services to avoid trips to town. Follow the advice of Health Services to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Protect your friends and family. Maintain social distance. Keep 2 meters apart at all times.
On April 6, 2020, the Ministry of Education announced the Support for Families program, which provides one-time financial support for families to purchase educational materials during the current school and childcare closures. Under this new program, parents are eligible for a one-time, per-child payment of:
- $200 for children aged 0-12, or
- $250 for children and youth with special needs aged 0-21.
All children within the identified age brackets are eligible for the program. This includes:
- Children enrolled in public school
- Children enrolled in private school (includes on reserve First Nation schools)
- Children attending child care
- Children who are home-schooled
- Children who are not enrolled in school or attending child care
All parents who are residents of Ontario are eligible for funding, including parents of First Nation children attending schools on reserve.
Follow the link below to apply for the first time. Parents/guardians that applied for the Support for Parents program during the school strike days are automatically enrolled in this Support for Families program and do not have to apply again.
The Ministry has now added an option for First Nations schools to the drop down list of schools. Families with children in schools on reserve should select “My child is not enrolled in either public or private school” and then select the “My child is attending a First Nation operated/federally operated school” option from the drop down list.
To apply, visit: https://www.ontario.ca/page/get-support-families
Nawash Home and Community Care advises that, due to safety concerns during COVID-19 pandemic, all health professional visits have been postponed until further notice. This is effective immediately. The Diabetes and Foot teams will not be in the community this week as previously scheduled. The Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre (SOAHAC), has also suspended the regular weekly visits to Neyaashiinigmiing.
Diabetes clients requiring assistance can call the Diabetes Team at the Wiarton Hospital, 519-534-1260. Leave a detailed message with your contact information if your call is not answered immediately.
Foot clients can call Telehealth Ontario for advice, at 1-866-797-0000.
SOAHAC is available by phone at 519-376-5508.
Those making an application under the Small Business/Entrepreneur Support program should note that the Band Office will be closed on Monday for the Easter Holiday and applications cannot be submitted on that day. The application deadline for the period March 29 – April 11 has been correspondingly extended by one day. Applications must be submitted to the Band Office by Tuesday, April 14th at 4:00 PM. Applications received after the deadline will be processed the following week.
Stay home – Stay healthy – Stay safe!
There are a number of COVID-19 cases in the Grey-Bruce area, including an employee of the Owen Sound Walmart. It is more important now than ever that we continue to practice social distancing, frequent hand washing, and staying home. If you have been out, are feeling unwell, or have symptoms, you can determine what to do next with this self-assessment tool published by the Province of Ontario.
If you’ve lost work or income due to the pandemic, you may qualify for the Federal goverment’s COVID-19 benefits program. Call the toll-free line at 1-800-959-2019 to make an application by phone. Prime Minister Trudeau has said that those using direct deposit will receive funds in 3-5 days, while those waiting for a mailed cheque will wait 10 days. More details in this CBC.ca story.