Ban hunting, fishing, and non-essential travel, Indigenous Nations tell government
This May long weekend, parts of Canada are easing restrictions put in place two months ago as part of the battle against COVID-19. For some, this brings a sense of relief. But others, especially those outside urban areas, fear this will heighten the risk of a coronavirus outbreak in their communities.
Nearly every Indigenous community in central and northern B.C., from the Tahltan to the Haida, is denying access to visitors to protect community members from COVID-19, and calling on the premier to ban non-essential travel as the province enters the next phase of its restart plan. Already, as part of this second phase, “many front- and back-country trails, beaches, picnic areas, washroom facilities and boat launches for day-use” have been reopened, according to the government.
“We want them to tell people they must stay away. We are telling visitors to stay away and may even have to demand it to keep our communities safe,” said Garry Reece, mayor of the Lax Kw’alaams Band, in a joint release with the Metlakatla Band. Both communities are located north of Prince Rupert on the Pacific Coast.
“More isolated First Nations communities such as ours are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of this pandemic — one of many we have suffered through historically — as are the many members of both our nations who now live in Prince Rupert.”
The B.C. government’s decision to declare hunting and fishing “essential services” on April 23, 2020, has also alarmed Indigenous communities.
“We’re very concerned about the hunting and fishing that’s been added to the list of essential services,” said Linda Innes, Gitxaala (Kitkatla) Nation chief councillor, during an online conference called Our United Coast on May 3.
“I think it should be made clear that people should not be travelling beyond their local area to engage in these activities.”