By Peter Moon
The Canadian Army has doubled its support for a remote First Nation gripped by a COVID-19 crisis.
A dozen soldiers from CFB Petawawa flew into Kashechewan First Nation last week to work alongside 14 Canadian Rangers.
The soldiers and the Rangers are working together to deliver water, food, and other urgently needed supplies to residents of the Cree community who are confined to their homes because of a 24-hour curfew.
The remote Cree community on James Bay at one point had more than 200 cases of COVID out of a population of 1,800 people. Half of the cases are young children. The case load has now dropped below 200.
The community has a severe housing crisis and providing quarantine facilities for COVID victims is challenging.
“It’s very rewarding being here to help the community,” said Master Corporal Jason Lane, who leads the soldiers from Petawawa. “We’re working with the Rangers. We’re setting up (living) shelters (for quarantined individuals) as well as delivering food, goods, and medical supplies.
“It’s been good working with the Rangers. They’re friendly, easy to get along with, and very capable and very good at what they do. They know their culture, which is very helpful.”
The Rangers come from Kashechewan and other Northern Ontario First Nations.
“The chief and the local people are very happy with the support they are getting from the Canadian Army,” said Sergeant Butt, a Ranger instructor. “Our reception here has been very good. They have received us with open arms.”
The Rangers and the soldiers are working 12-, 13-, and 14-hour days.
“The Rangers are very tired from working long days for so long,” said Master Corporal Joe Lazarus. “I just gave four of them two days off to rest up. They are sleeping when they can. I just close my eyes at night and I go to sleep right away.”
A shipment of toys and games for children who are confined to their homes is expected to arrive in Kashechewan this week. “We are going to enjoy delivering them to those kids in their homes,” Sergeant Butt said.
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)