The COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing, despite a downward trend in cases in the province. With a vaccine still on the horizon and few effective treatments for those suffering the worst effects, the threat of a COVID-19 outbreak remains a real threat. Dr. Ian Arra, the Grey Bruce Medical Officer of Health, has consequently extended the class order requiring the use of face coverings in all commercial establishments, until September 11. Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation Council has a parallel order in place, covering Neyaashiinigmiing businesses and Administration workplaces.
The best advice of medical professionals is that, without a cure or reliable treatment, we should do everything we can to avoid spreading the disease in the first place. Widespread mask use, in combination with physical distancing and frequent hand washing, has been definitively shown to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. When leaving your home, remember to take and wear your mask when you are near people not from your household, or whenever you enter a building that is not your home.
- The school year will start on September 8th. For the first two weeks, however, from September 8 to 18, students will engage in online learning.
- Beginning on September 21st, students will be divided into two cohorts. The first cohort will attend classes in person on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while the second cohort will attend classes in person on Wednesdays and Fridays. Mondays will be for cleaning, class planning, online learning, and possibly outdoor land-based learning.
- The first semester is planned to finish on December 18th. While students will start on September 21st with 2 days of in-person classes per week, our hope is that at some point during the school year we will be able to transition to a full 5 days of in-person classes. We will have to decide that at a later date.
- Cohort # 1 will be Senior Kindergarten, and grades 2, 4, 6 & 8, with some changes to accommodate family groupings and learning levels.
- Cohort # 2 will be grades 1, 3, 5, & 7, again with some changes to accommodate family groupings and learning levels.
- We are not ready to accommodate junior kindergarten students at Kikendaasogamig, but they can attend the NShiime Day Care until such time as we are ready to transition them to the school. Day care registration will be ready soon, and we will send out a community notice when it becomes available.
- There will be enhanced health and safety measures put in place.
- School days may be shortened so that teachers can prepare and support students that are learning from home.
- The At Home Learning/Remote Delivery option will be available on days that the students are not in class. Parents who feel they need to keep their children home and opt for full remote learning can do so.
Kikendaasogamig Elementary and the Board of Education are seeking input from parents/guardians to further guide their plans for the school year. Parents and caregivers are asked to complete a short online survey. All information gathered is strictly confidential. Submissions are only accessible to the School Principal. Note that you will be asked to provide your child’s name to assist in planning the cohorts and organizing school transportation needs.
Chief Greg Nadjiwon has prepared a video statement for the membership, to discuss the ongoing State of Emergency, the careful steps we’re taking to partly re-open Neyaashiinigmiing, and the challenge we face as a community in dealing with drug and other substance abuse.
After reviewing available data and discussing present circumstances with Dr. Arra, the Grey Bruce Medical Officer of Health, the Council has accepted the recommendation of the Community Emergency Response Group to extend the State of Emergency for Neyaashiinigmiing until September 1, 2020. We are gradually moving toward a full re-opening of the community, but we will only do so in alignment with the Council’s strategy of phased re-opening with significant monitoring of the effect of each phase on the health of the community.
Recent steps to begin the re-opening started with seasonal campers and registered leaseholders because these smaller, well-defined groups can be easily monitored for compliance with safety protocols. It would be irresponsible at this point in the pandemic to open up the community widely, with no practical way to assess if the large number of visitors we might expect are behaving in a safe manner. The Council will not risk the health of Neyaashiinigmiing residents by removing the monitors or access restrictions in haste, or without clear medical and operational guidance that it can be done safely.
The State of Emergency allows the Council to take the extraordinary actions required to manage our interests in the unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Council will reassess the need for the State of Emergency again in the week before the current expiry date of September 1, 2020. We are grateful for your continued patience and support and look forward to returning the community to some normalcy in the days to come.
The Council has passed a Band Council Resolution directing Chippewas of Nawash staff to return to work on August 4, 2020. Non-essential Band programs have been shuttered and staff asked to stay home since March, when the Council announced the State of Emergency for Neyaashiinigmiing in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. During that time, staff have continued to receive their full salary and benefits. The restart is delayed by a week to allow furloughed staff time to be notified and make necessary arrangements to return to work full-time. Note that the Board of Education staff are on duty but services are not yet available at the daycare and elementary school.
Band employees returning to work will have a raft of COVID-19 mitigation strategies to help keep them and community members safe. This may include hand wash or disinfectant stations in all offices, physical shielding between workers and the public, workspaces reorganized to promote physical distancing, and the new mandatory facemask policy. To further accommodate a return to work, program supervisors may implement staggered shifts so that fewer employees are present at the same time, authorize remote work, or enable part-time hours, particularly for employees that require childcare for their families.
Restarting programs and returning staff to work is a welcome and necessary step for the community. We are confident that diligently following our safety protocols will keep staff and residents safe while providing important services to the entire membership. We ask that, as programs open their doors again, clients are mindful of the health of the community and respect all health and safety directives.
Following the recent decision to allow seasonal campers access to Cape Croker Park, the Council has also voted to allow registered recreational lessees (tenants) access to their leased cottage lots. Note that this applies to registered leases only. Private lease or rental arrangements, not registered with Indigenous Services Canada, remain prohibited under the State of Emergency declared by the Council, as the Band does not have safety monitoring mechanisms in place for private agreements.
The Lands Department recommended the partial re-opening, supported by the multi-phase Registered Recreational Cottage Lease Re-opening Plan. The Plan was reviewed by the Council, our health professionals, and the Community Emergency Response Group (CERG), with the primary focus of the reviews being public safety and keeping Neyaashiinigmiing free of COVID-19. The first phase of the Plan will be in effect from July 31, 2020 to August 16, 2020. The situation in the community and the Plan will be re-assessed during the initial period to determine when and whether to move on to the next phase.
Under the terms of Phase One of the Registered Recreational Cottage Lease Re-opening Plan, registered lessees and guests will be given letters of access to the community, on a weekly basis. Lessees and guests will be allowed to access their leased properties, with some limitations designed to limit their contact with Neyaashiinigmiing residents.
The conditions of the Registered Recreational Cottage Lease re-opening include the following:
- Lessees must register all guests each week
- Community access restricted to five (5) people per leased lot at any given time
- Lot access restricted to five (5) people per leased lot at any given time
- Lessee must stay on their leased lot unless away for essentials (fuel, food)
- Lessees must maintain physical distancing when at local businesses
- Lessee must wear a mask when at local businesses and elsewhere on reserve
- A Code of Conduct must be signed and kept on file at the leased site
- Lessees must arrive at community during their registered days
- The list of registered lessees and guests will be provided to Chippewas of Nawash Guardians at the monitoring station.
- Lessees must display a validly issued vehicle access pass on the dashboards of their vehicles.
- Public beach areas, docks and public areas of gathering will be off limits to non-member, non-resident lessees and guests at this time.
- Trails on reserve lands are closed to non-member, non-resident guests and lessees
- Infractions of terms will result in revocation of access letters for remainder of season
The situation in the community is continually being evaluated by the Administration and the Community Emergency Response Group, which makes recommendations to Council on steps forward during the pandemic. The implementation of the Registered Recreational Cottage Lease Re-opening Plan will be similarly assessed to assure that it is meeting the goals of keeping the community safe and respecting the rights of registered lessees. The Plan may be adjusted to accommodate new conditions as they arise.
Please contact Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation Lands Department at 519-534-1689 if you have questions.
The Council, after long deliberation and careful consideration of the re-opening plans of the Province and Grey Bruce, has voted to allow seasonal campers to stay in Cape Croker Park. Cape Croker Park management has prepared a multi-phase plan to safely re-open the Park in stages. The plan has been reviewed by the Council, our health professionals, and the Community Emergency Response Group, guided by the very strong community feedback we’ve received expressing residents’ desire to keep Neyaashiinigmiing safe and COVID-19 free. The Park re-opening plan covers the remainder of the camping season, until the Park closes on October 12, 2020.
Many of the Park’s seasonal campers, those who book a campsite for the entire season, have been renting a seasonal spot for years and have made it a family tradition to summer in Neyaashiinigmiing. While some would have liked to return to the Park sooner, safety remains the paramount concern of the Council as we consider how to re-open Neyaashiinigmiing. The Council is taking a cautious approach to give us time to more carefully plan our re-opening, and assess the effects of steps taken toward re-opening. As we move forward, we are strictly limiting who may access the community – and the level of access that those admitted will enjoy.
Cape Croker Park is also an important part of our local economy, as an employer and net income generator. While the Park has been closed, our potential guests have certainly visited other camping sites around Grey Bruce that have re-opened under various protocols. This is immediately damaging to our revenues for this year, but could also hurt return business in future years if our guests staying elsewhere choose not to return to Cape Croker Park. Re-opening the Park in this safely limited fashion will honour our commitment to our seasonal campers, who booked their spots well-before the season opened, and help us maintain our competitiveness in the tourism industry during a difficult time.
Under Phase One of the plan, now being implemented, seasonal campers ONLY will be allowed to access their reserved sites, with limitations. Day camping remains closed. Public areas outside the Park will be off-limits to seasonal campers who must be largely self-sufficient in order to limit their contact with Neyaashiinigmiing residents.
The conditions of the Cape Croker Park Phase One re-opening include the following:
- Comfort Stations including showers and laundry to remain closed.
- Playground to be closed and physical barrier to be installed.
- Pavilion, Veterans Arbor, and Sacred Fire Arbor are to remain closed.
- Only one customer will be permitted in the Park Office at a time.
- Camping will be open to Seasonal Campers with a completed and signed Licence of Occupation (contract) for the 2020 season.
- The Contract is valid only for the “Family”, parents and dependent children. All Occupants of the site must be listed in the contract.
- Limited to Self Contained Trailers (with washroom facilities). Alternatively, campers can rent a portable toilet that will be placed on the campsite for their personal use.
- A Code of Conduct must be signed and kept on file in the park office.
- There will be no additional campers/overnight visitors allowed on the site.
- Campers must maintain physical distancing when in the park.
- Campers are not to gather in groups of more than 10 people.
- Campers must arrive at the Park between 8:00 AM and 10:00 PM.
- The list of authorized Seasonal Campers will be provided to Chippewas Of Nawash Guardians at the monitoring station.
- Campers must display a validly issued camping pass on the dashboards of their vehicles.
We are grateful for the loyalty and understanding of our seasonal campers who are choosing to stay with us under greatly curtailed circumstances. The Council is especially grateful for the community’s support and patience as we navigate these unknown waters. The Council continues seek the best way forward for all of us. Together, as a community, we will survive and come out stronger than ever.
The Coldwater Trust Board has expanded the Grocery Gift Card program to now include all Chippewas of Nawash member households worldwide. Canadian members applying under the program will continue to receive a $150 grocery gift card, valid at many Canadian stores. It would be logistically challenging, however, to provide an equivalent gift card in the many places that our members live. International members will instead receive a transfer of funds equivalent to $150 CAD in their local currency.
The application process and limitations remain the same for all members. This is a one-time benefit that may only be claimed by ONE member per household.
Gift cards for Canadian members will be sent by regular mail. International members will be contacted by the Coldwater Trust manager to arrange a transfer once their applications have been approved.
As the pandemic persists, we are concerned about the health and well-being of all our members, wherever they live. We urge all member households that haven’t yet taken advantage of this great benefit to apply today.
We have been incredibly fortunate to not have any cases of COVID-19 in Neyaashiinigmiing thus far. The Council is truly grateful for the inspiring level of concern and leadership from all residents responsibly following safety guidelines. We have taken the first steps towards re-opening the community by allowing our non-residents members to visit. The Council and Administration are putting a great deal of thought into how and to what extent we might re-open Neyaashiinigmiing further. We are eager to hear what the community thinks about it as well. You can help, and have your opinion heard, by completing this short survey.
Until a reliable vaccine is developed and tested, COVID-19 will continue to be a real and significant threat to communities everywhere. This is especially true in vulnerable communities like Neyaashiinigmiing where a large number of people have pre-existing medical conditions that could make contracting the disease far more serious. With so few treatment options, our best strategy is to simply avoid catching COVID-19 altogether. A well-made cloth face covering, combined with physical distancing, has been shown to be effective in significantly reducing the spread of COVID-19. Wearing a face mask is proven to protect the people around us.
To guard the safety of Neyaashiinigmiing residents as we begin to re-open, the Council has created a policy, effective immediately, making face coverings mandatory in the community. A face covering must be worn when a person is within 2 meters of someone they don’t live with. This requirement is in effect indoors or outdoors. Some people may be exempt from the policy:
- a child under 2 years of age
- a person with a medical condition that prevents them from safely wearing a mask
- a person who cannot remove a mask without assistance
- a person exempt under the Ontario Human Rights Code or Canadian Human Rights Act
A face covering may be temporarily removed, if necessary, for:
- receiving services
- engaging in an athletic or fitness activity
- eating and drinking
- any emergency or medical reason
All band employees are also subject to the face covering mandate and are required to wear masks in any area where safe physical distance cannot be maintained. Administration Buildings and businesses in the community must have conspicuous signage posted at entrances indicating the face covering requirement.
No proof is required if a person is claiming an exemption. Owners or supervisors of a building or business establishment may refuse entry or service to a person not wearing a mask, but are not required to do so.
The Council appreciates that this new health and safety requirement may seem inconvenient to some residents and guests, but it’s a small inconvenience compared to the risk of serious illness or death posed by COVID-19. While the Council is well within its legal authority to temporarily mandate face coverings during the current pandemic conditions, we hope, as the entire world does, that a vaccine and effective treatment will be developed as soon as possible.
Please help us keep the community safe. Be an example for everyone around you and wear a face mask when you’re out and around other people. Stay safe and stay healthy!
Read the full policy here.