by Xavier Kataquapit
Beaverhouse First Nation along with many organizations in the province are filling the gap in vaccinating the urban Indigenous population against Covid19. The vaccine roll out has been moving ahead in Northeastern Ontario Indigenous First Nations through the efforts of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), Chiefs of Ontario (COO), Nishnawbe-Aski Nation (NAN), Mushkegowuk Council, Wabun Tribal Council and other Tribal Councils in association with the government of Canada, government of Ontario and local public health agencies.
Beaverhouse FN in the Kirkland Lake area has been instrumental in helping the urban Indigenous population in getting vaccinated. The urban Indigenous population often has difficulty in accessing newly created programs and services as these individuals include off-reserve members, or in the case of Beaverhouse FN, community members with no federally officially recognized land base.
“I am happy to report that due to the hard work and lobbying of our Indigenous government representatives, our tribal councils and Chiefs and Councils we have managed to form good partnerships with public health in delivering vaccines to our people. Our biggest efforts is in helping our community members but also in assisting the urban Indigenous population who live in the Kirkland Lake area but have no easy access to their home First Nation or associated health care services,” commented Chief Wayne Wabie, Beaverhouse First Nation.
In Kirkland Lake Mino M’shki-ki Indigenous Health Team held a vaccination clinic on April 1. The clinic was held with the support and coordination of Sue Alton, Health Director, Mino M’shki-ki; Chief Wabie, Sartaj Uddin, Health Director, Beaverhouse FN; Nancy Wabie, Director of Operations, Beaverhouse FN; Bertha Cormier, Matachewan FN; Chris Acton, Temiskaming Metis Council and Brianna Roy and representatives from the Timiskaming Health Unit.
“I am very happy with the vaccine clinic and all of the good work our staff and our partners put into ensuring a well organized, safe and smooth operation. I am very thankful for the participation of everyone involved who made the day such a success,” explained Uddin.
Although there has been some vaccine hesitancy recently most people are understanding the importance of being vaccinated against the Covid19 virus. Currently almost 24,000 people have died of Covid19 in Canada and close to 8,000 in Ontario. First Nation advocates have been leading the move to vaccinate Indigenous communities which are at high risk of being affected by this pandemic. Beaverhouse FN has taken on the role of assisting and advocating for the Indigenous population that do not have direct access or support.
Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders are calling for the vaccination of essential workers, the guarantee of paid sick days if they contract the virus and improved protection in working environments. They are also calling on governments to listen to and follow the guidance of medical health professionals and scientists to handle this crisis.
“At a time when many of us have been vaccinated there are thousands of essential workers at risk every day who have not been vaccinated. We have to be grateful for the services of all health care workers as well as those involved in teaching, industry, mining, manufacturing, food growing and processing who are all on the front lines in this fight against Covid19,” said Chief Wabie.
Xavier Kataquapit, a member of Attawapiskat First Nation and an urban Indigenous resident of Kirkland Lake, received his first shot of the Moderna vaccine from Sandra Dalpai, Nurse practitioner, Kirkland Lake Family Health Team, at a vaccination clinic held by the Timiskaming Health Unit in Kirkland Lake on Thursday April 15.