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

MacIntyre acclaimed as Libertarian candidate for Penticton

MacIntyre is the president of the Okanagan School of the Arts

More bats nothing to worry about, say Okanagan experts

The Okanagan Community Bat program says residents may see more young bats around

BCHL hockey is back with announcement of Okanagan Cup

The BCHL four-team tournament starts Friday, Sept. 25

Kiera Bourque’s sentence ‘an embarrassment’: family of deceased Penticton teen

Bourque was sentenced to one year in prison for her role in the 2017 death of Devon Blackmore

B.C. reports 91 new cases as officials remain worried over ‘clusters of COVID-19

There have now been a total of 8,395 cases in B.C. since the pandemic began

30 new COVID-19 cases reported in Central Okanagan health region in August

The 30 new cases reported in August brings the total number in region to 239

Suspects steal $30,000 in glasses from Okanagan business

Jimmy Choo, Smith, Ray Ban, Tom Ford and Maui Jims taken from optometry

Shuswap man ‘started to lose it’ after learning of lottery win

Sorrento resident wins $100,000, ticket purchased at Copper Island Pub

Okanagan Beach Club fined for not complying to COVID-19 rules, tiki bar closed

Interior Health order the tiki bar closed due to non-compliance with Provincial Health Officer orders

Water off for some Okanagan residents

Emergency repair in Lake Country

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’

Kelowna RCMP seize drugs, weapons from downtown residence

Search warrant was in relation to an active criminal investigation into suspected drug trafficking

Most Read