Checkpoints are in place at all entrances to Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation (Canoe Creek Dog Creek) in B.C.’s Interior stopping non-residents from entering due to COVID-19 pandemic concerns.
Chief Patrick Harry said the community has the support of the RCMP, although police are not at the check points.
He met with officers Monday morning to let them know personnel at the checkpoints are stopping visitors from coming into the community until further notice.
“This pandemic is fast and furious,” Harry told Black Press Media. “Where we were last Monday compared to today is vastly different. We are encouraging people not to travel out to Canoe Creek and Dog Creek at this time. If they do they may face check points and road closures.”
Checkpoints are up at the Dog Creek community entrance, the Enterprise Road turnoff and at the Poison Lake or what he said is known as “Indian Meadows” turn off.
The community’s emergency operations centre has not been activated as of yet, but operations have gone to essential services only.
“Out of precaution we sent some 30 employees home and are running our health, financial and a limited maintenance and operations crew,” Harry said. “There’s myself and one other person in the office here.”
The Canoe Creek Co-op Store remains open and efforts are being made to keep items in stock.
Social distancing measures are being implemented in the store to protect the staff, he said, adding only residents will be able to shop in the store.
The store also provides the only fuel source for the communities and non-residents will not be permitted to purchase gasoline.
“Our store is an essential service in terms of food and fuel and when people come out this far — it’s 85 kilometres from Williams Lake and if they are heading over to Canoe Creek they are probably going to need gas. We are warning that if they get out this far they won’t have access to the fuel station.”
Harry said leadership is encouraging residents to self-isolate for 14 days if they have travelled, and at this point, all band members are being advised to self-isolate, whether they have travelled or not, especially the elders.
“That’s easier said than done, but with each day that goes by this gets more and more serious,” Harry said. “These are trying times for us. This is something we’ve never faced. We’ve faced fires and floods, due to climate change, but something like this, as most people know, is such a challenging situation.”
Harry said they have been in contact with local ranchers or residents who may need to pass through the communities en route to home or town to let them know about the measures they are implementing.
So far everyone has been understanding as far as he knows, he added.
“They will be able to drive through to go home but no one can get out of their vehicles. Everybody is supposed to be self-isolating, yet we did see a lot of traffic on the weekend. We are doing our best to control traffic through our communities. We don’t want to become exposed by someone travelling through from the Lower Mainland or somewhere like that.”
Williams Lake Indian Band
Last week on March 19, Williams Lake Indian Band Chief Willie Sellars gave his community a video update, adding all communications will be online as all group meetings have been cancelled.
Tsilhqot’in National Government
The Tsilhqot’in National Government confirmed Monday it has not declared a state of emergency as of yet but has activated its Emergency Operations Centre has been sharing information and recommendations by public health authorities with communities.
Previously, however, Tl’etinqox Chief Joe Alphonse urged band members to err on the side of caution’ amid the pandemic and said he planned to self-isolate.
A local state of emergency has been declared by the Nuxalk Nation requesting a shutdown of all non-essential travel in and out of the community for 14 days.