B.C. First Nations call on privacy commissioner to release community COVID-19 data

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

Cowichan Tribes members line up at a drive-up clinic on Wednesday, Jan. 13 to receive the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in the region. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
BCAFN condems racism against Cowichan Tribes after COVID-19 outbreak

“Any one of us could do everything right and still catch the virus”: Regional Chief Terry Teegee.

Dr. Shannon Waters, the medical health officer for the Cowichan Valley Region, is reminding people to stay the course with COVID-19 measures. (File photo)
‘Stay the course’ with COVID measures, Island Health reminds

Limit social activity, wash hands, wear a mask, and isolate if you feel sick

Cowichan Bay tennis player Grace Haugen takes part in an exhibition at the South Cowichan Lawn Tennis Club in 2019, which also included Canadian legends Frank Dancevic and Daniel Nestor. Haugen has committed to further her career at the University of Montana starting next fall. (Citizen file)
Cowichan Bay tennis player prepares for next step in her journey

Grace Haugen commits to University of Montana

Police and fire crews at work at a fire scene at Mount Prevost School (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Classes cancelled for Mount Prevost students today

Second school fire in five days for North Cowichan schools

New well in Youbou expected to meet community;s drinking water needs for years. (File photo)
New well provides fresh water in Youbou

Well expected to meet community’s needs for years

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Nursing staff at West Coast General Hospital celebrate the announcement of a $6.25-million expansion of the emergency department that will start in March 2021. (File photo)
B.C. health ministry commits $6.25M to hospital expansion in Port Alberni

Plans for larger emergency department have been on hold since 2015

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government announces creation of B.C.’s first anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Black Press media file
Port McNeill driver tells police he thought the pandemic meant no breathalyzers

Suspect facing criminal charges after breathalyzer readings in excess of 3.5 times the legal limit

Forestry companies in B.C. agree to abide by the cedar protocols based on traditional laws of the First Nation members of the Nanwakolas Council. (Photo courtesy, Nanwakolas Council)
Landmark deal sees B.C. forest firms treat big cedars like a First Nation would

Western Forest Products, Interfor among companies to adapt declaration drafted by Nanwakolas Council

A northern resident killer whale shows injuries sustained by a collision with a vessel in B.C. waters. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Coast Guard ramps up protections for B.C. whales

First-ever Marine Mammal Desk will enhance cetacean reporting and enforcement

Most Read