We are providing this update as follow-up to our call at 1:30 pm EST/ 12:30pm CST on Monday March 16, 2020.
As discussed on the call, we must do this work together. With Tribal Councils, health authorities and community assistance, we are in a much better position to stay safe and healthy, and hold the government accountable. We cannot afford to reproduce work and ask that everyone works closely to share information and communicate the issues that are directly affecting communities to NAN so that we can advocate appropriately.
We have been in touch with Senior Officials at the federal and provincial governments prior to the announcements this morning. We are aware there will be international travel restrictions coming into the country. A total shutdown is not expected at this point because of essential services but we do understand that the majority of government is operating in the ‘business continuity plan’ and therefore some services are not running at full capacity. There appears to be recognition that NAN communities are most vulnerable in this pandemic and we need to move forward with that in mind.
We will also provide further information regarding the NAN COVID-19 Task Team as discussed on our call once the communication protocol has been finalized. It is our hope that we can continue to gather information in the most effective way so that our communities have reliable and relevant updates. We will be relying on Tribal Councils and health authorities to keep the communities updated.
Follow-up on Issues from March 13, 2020 Calls and Update
- Resources for Immediate Needs: A letter was written on Friday March 13, 2020 to Minister Marc Miller outlining non-exhaustive immediate needs. There has been no response to this letter.
- COVID-19 Proposal: A proposal was submitted on Saturday March 14 to Ontario supporting communication protocols specific to NAN territory, which includes a COVID-19 Task Team, pandemic planning for all NAN communities and COVID-19 proposal will be circulated. It is clearly noted that this proposal does not include other immediate needs considerations identified by NAN communities and Tribal Councils such as personal protective equipment, surge capacity, response and recovery, and immediate health supplies that have been identified and are required, as well as considerations stemming from the pandemic such as social services, mental health supports and economic outcomes. For further clarity, this proposal was developed to support planning efforts at the community level in order to fully address the needs of the community.
- NAN Members in Urban Centres: Support for vulnerable community members in Urban Centres remains a concern, especially the elderly. NAN is looking at process to work with Tribal Councils and communities to quickly identify those people and families.
- Canadian Rangers: NAN spoke with Senior Management and possibilities exist for Rangers to be mobilized. A process exists if Rangers are asked to intervene. Communities must identify if they need assistance. Security or police like duties are not something that can be provided (setting up of equipment, safety checks can be provided).
- Ontario Works Recipients and New Recipients: It was communicated to our department that communities Ontario Works Delivery agent has funding without cap that is called ‘Discretionary Funding/ benefits’. This funding could be used to ease detriment of wellbeing and to benefit the client in this time. Ontario Works can assist communities to ensure that families have food and supplies. The communities should respond as per their business continuity/ emergency preparedness plans. We are currently expecting a directive from Patti Redmend Director for Ontario Works at Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services on further plans to address the response to CONVID -19.
- Breakfast Programs, Food for Children: Those who currently receive funding for student nutrition programs (SNP) in NAN territory are identified as:
First Nations in NAN in territory receiving First Nations SNP funding are: Aroland First Nation, Brunswick House First Nation, Chapleau Cree First Nation, Eabametoong First Nation, Fort Albany First Nation, Lac Seul First Nation, Mattagami First Nation, Sandy Lake First Nation and Weenusk First Nation.
Tribal Councils and Agencies in NAN Territory receiving First Nations SNP funding: Keewaytinook Okimakanak, Matawa First Nations Management and Kwayaciiwin Education Resource Centre.
The Ministry has stated that they can look at alternate service models because of the school closures. As it becomes clear where they additional needs or emergency prevention is required, please contact the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services through Director Sarah Caldwell.
Effective Monday March 16 at 1:00 p.m., NAN offices in Thunder Bay and Timmins will be working from home until April 6. We will reassess at that time. This decision was made to ensure the safety of our employees as well as our communities. To be clear, NAN operations will continue as normal as possible in the given circumstances. As required, key staff will be coming into the office while we can still do so safely.
Staff at NAN Legal Services Corporation are organizing how to work from home and support clients. Update and information from the Ministry of the Attorney General is pending regarding court and judicial matters.
At the end of business day today, civilian staff for NAPS will be sent home with minimal staff coming into process items. This does not impact front-line police officers in communities.
Communications and Air Travel update:
KNet continues to monitor their networks and troubleshoot any issues as they arise.
Western James Bay Telecom Network is following their Business Continuity Preparedness Plan in the event of any staff, consultants, or community based freelance technicians becoming ill. Spare supplies for internet repair are in each community. All of their telecommunications shelters are equipped with backup battery banks, and soft start generators equipped with fuel to last 48 hours. There are also dual hydro lines coming up the coast so the ability to switch from one transmission line to another is seamless.
Bell is in full planning mode to ensure existing services are maintained in the event of an outage or interruption.
Air Carriers are directing people to their websites where most have posted a response to the pandemic, including preventative measures put in place to ensure the safety of their passengers. Air Carriers would appreciate any direction from community leadership on changes to community travel.
Next call: Tuesday March 17, 2020 (1:00 pm EST/ 12:00 CST)