B.C. First Nations call on privacy commissioner to release community COVID-19 data

An application has been made to the office of the information and privacy commissioner

A coalition of B.C. First Nations is demanding the provincial government disclose more information about COVID-19 cases near their communities.

An application to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner was submitted Monday, Sept. 14 by the Heiltsuk Tribal Council, Tsilhqot’in National Government and the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. The nations, representing communities located on the Central Coast, Chilcotin and Vancouver Island regions, are asking the Ministry of Health to share the location of presumptive and confirmed COVID-19 cases, whether the case involves a person that has travelled to one of the Nations and the name of a person infected who is a member of one of the Nations to be used for the purpose of culturally-safe contact tracing.

Read More: COVID-19 cases confirmed in Bella Coola; Nuxalk Nation on lockdown

“The idea that we need to have an outbreak — as we have just had in our community — before B.C. will share information, is reckless and colonial, and it goes against B.C.’s own laws and promises of reconciliation,” said Marilyn Slett, Chief Councillor of the Heiltsuk Nation in a news release Tuesday, Sept. 15.

The Heiltsuk Tribal Council publicly confirmed on the weekend that two positive COVID-19 cases have been identified in their small, isolated community off B.C.’s central coast.

Read More: B.C. Black-based group starts COVID-19 fund, urges officials to collect race-based data

During her daily COVID briefing on Monday, Sept. 14 provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said coronavirus exposures that have led to cases in a number of smaller or more remote communities have not been related to a neighbouring community, and that the ministry is working very closely with all First Nation leaders through the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), who are identified as soon as they know of a positive case.

“I will say that in many cases, the community will know before we know when somebody is ill and before they go for testing because we don’t have any way of knowing whether somebody who has travelled is going to become sick. Where we get notified is when the tests come back positive,” Henry said, adding she also has responsibilities to protect people’s public health information.

Most COVID-19 cases, she said, are arising through known positive contacts, and that 80 per cent of cases are being identified within a few days through contact tracing.

The application by the Nations was filed on the basis that the B.C. Government’s refusal to share information violates Section 25 of the Freedom of Information and Protection Privacy Act.

Past pandemics have devastated First Nations communities.

Read More: COVID-19 controls tightened as cases rise and possible second wave looms

According to the release, the Nations also contend that B.C.’s own Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act requires that government “must take all measures necessary” to ensure the laws of B.C. are consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous people (UNDRIP), which includes rights to self-determination, self-government and to develop and determine programs for maintaining the health and well-being of Indigenous people.

“Giving lip service to reconciliation, while allowing public officials to continue to disregard our efforts to govern during COVID-19 is deeply wrong,” stated Judith Sayers, President of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. “We must have access to the same health datasets the B.C. government has, on a government-to-government basis, if we are going to get through this pandemic together.”

Read More: Released inmate tests positive for COVID-19, exposes Tl’etinqox First Nations community to virus

A public campaign supporting the Nations in their bid for the information to be released by the B.C. government has been launched with LeadNow.

“The campaign is on our citizen-led petition platform and we have a partnership with a coalition of 21 B.C. First Nations to support their campaign,” noted LeadNow senior campaigner Cherry Tsoi.

Henry said she remains committed to continuing to work with First Nations to meet their needs, including a culturally-safe approach through using a circle of support.

“We need to make sure from our Western way of thinking are incorporating things that are culturally safe so that people are able to come forward and be sure they have the supports they need both from their community and from us in the public health world, so there is more work to be done, absolutely.”


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
rebecca.dyok@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusIndigenous

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIDEO: Cariboo-Chilcotin rally aims to stop antlerless moose hunt

Cow Moose Sign Project supported by First Nations, guide outfitters, ranchers

Quesnel Waveriders jumping into fall swim season

Pandemic restrictions mean swim meets are out, and athletes need to be distanced during practice

More B.C. food options coming to Northern Health facilities

Northern Health is now part of the provincial Feed BC program

The legacy of the Battle of Britain

Royal Canadian Legion Branch 94 marked Battle of Britain Day with a small service Sept. 15

Quesnel golfers make the cut

The Quesnel Golf Club hosted championships for men and women over the past two weeks

BC Liberal Leader talks drug addiction in the Lower Mainland

Drug addiction and public safety a top priority says Andrew Wilkinson

Pandemic derails CP Holiday Train

Canadian Pacific will work to get donations to food banks while also producing an online music concert

Vanderhoof’s Brian Frenkel takes on top job in tough times

We can get through this, new local government leader says

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Local councils important, Horgan says as municipal conference ends

B.C. NDP leader says ‘speed dating’ vital, online or in person

Penticton woman sentenced to one year in prison for manslaughter of teen boyfriend

Kiera Bourque, 24, was sentenced for manslaughter in the 2017 death of Penticton’s Devon Blackmore

B.C. Green leader says NDP abandoning environmental plan

Horgan’s claim of unstable government false, Furstenau says

Transgender B.C. brothers debut fantasy novel as author duo Vincent Hunter

‘Transgender people are being misrepresented in popular fiction and media, and we aim to change that’

Most Read