School District 79 chair Candace Spilsbury, Duncan mayor Michelle Staples, Ladysmith mayor Aaron Stone, Cowichan tribes chief William (Chip) Seymour, MP Alistair MacGregor, MLA Sonia Furstenau, North Cowichan mayor Al Siebring and former CVRD board chair Ian Morrison. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)

School District 79 chair Candace Spilsbury, Duncan mayor Michelle Staples, Ladysmith mayor Aaron Stone, Cowichan tribes chief William (Chip) Seymour, MP Alistair MacGregor, MLA Sonia Furstenau, North Cowichan mayor Al Siebring and former CVRD board chair Ian Morrison. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)

Column: Cowichan Leadership Group urges community to come together against racism, COVID-19

We are sickened at the racist response of some members of community towards Cowichan Tribes members

Cowichan Leadership Group

The news that Cowichan Tribes members have COVID cases hit us hard. We are worried about the elders and their families. We are saddened by the effect this virus has on community members: a reminder of times when disease wiped out Indigenous communities and when movement on and off reserve was controlled. It is also a reminder that to this day settlers may treat Indigenous peoples as though they do not belong on their own land.

We are sickened at the racist response of some members of this community towards Cowichan Tribes members after hearing the news that there are COVID cases on the reserve.

Cowichan Tribes has issued a shelter-in-place order that asks members to stay at home unless they have an essential reason to leave, such as getting food or medicine, attending work or school off-reserve, going to medical appointments, and shopping for groceries and other essentials.

Theirs is not the only First Nation in this region with cases, nor does the pandemic affect only First Nations in this community. Island Health does not provide COVID-19 numbers at a local level in the same way that First Nations health authorities do, which is why Cowichan Tribes has numbers to release in a way that is different than for the rest of the community.

Island Health staff is conducting contact tracing to ensure cases in this region are contained. The Moderna vaccine will be provided to segments of the community, as decided by health authorities. However, there are not enough vaccines at this time for everyone at risk, and it will be many months before the supply of vaccinations meets the demand. The prioritization of who gets vaccines and when is one of the most difficult challenges as we move forward. We must trust that those in health care are doing the best they can with the information they are given. We must remind each other to be patient and forgiving.

One of the most important things we can do in a crisis is support each other.

Throughout the last 11 months, this community has shown its best self. So many have shown incredible generosity. Non-profit organizations continue to provide food hampers to people in lockdown and families in need. Business owners have donated their facilities and services. Many of our local business owners reported increased sales at Christmas because people chose to support local shops. All of our emergency services have done phenomenal work in responding to the urgent needs in this community.

We have been moved by these acts of kindness. We have been proud at how everyone has been diligent in following the health orders — so diligent that, until January, Cowichan had seen very few cases. Now we need to lean into that empathy, compassion, understanding, and kindness as we navigate this stage of the pandemic, perhaps the most challenging stage yet. We have so many familial ties across this community; whatever is going on in one of our communities affects all of us. We must not tolerate racism, and we all have to play an active role to stop racist words and behaviour. Start by questioning your own assumptions. If you hear or see others engage in racism online or in person, speak up, and support others who speak up too.

We will see cases increase before we see the numbers come back down, and our collective effort can influence how quickly we see those numbers drop. We can continue to follow the COVID guidelines by wearing our masks, maintaining our distance, and sanitizing our hands when we are in public spaces. We can be responsible in sharing information about COVID from credible sources.

Together, we can keep COVID numbers low, with the goal of returning to no cases as soon as possible. This will save lives. We’ve done it before. We can do it again.

Chief William Seymour, Cowichan Tribes

Sonia Furstenau, MLA

Michelle Staples, Mayor, City of Duncan

Al Siebring, Mayor, North Cowichan

Dr. Shannon Waters, Island Health

Alistair MacGregor, MP

Insp. Chris Bear, RCMP

Candace Spilsbury, Board Chair for Cowichan Valley School District

Deborah Saucier, President, Vancouver Island University

Bob Day, Mayor, Town of Lake Cowichan

Aaron Stone, Chair, Cowichan Valley Regional District/Mayor, Town of Ladysmith

ColumnCoronavirusFirst Nations

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Trickster author Eden Robinson will be reading from her new book during an online conversation hosted by the Vancouver Island Regional Library on April 23. (Red Works Photography)
A&E column: Music, art, fundraising and renowned author

What’s going on in Cowichan Valley arts and entertainment

Members of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 53 gathered at the Duncan Cenotaph on April 9 to commemorate the First World War Battle of Vimy Ridge. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Cowichan Valley veterans remember Battle of Vimy Ridge

Members of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 53 gather at Duncan Cenotaph

City workers from Duncan were busy recently putting up street signs in both Hul’q’umi’num’ and English. (Submitted photo)
Hul’q’umi’num signs installed in downtown Duncan

Project a partnership between City of Duncan, DDBIA and Cowichan Tribes

Crofton Fire Department members on the scene of Twin Gables fire in February of 2020. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Citizens’ group calls for action at Crofton’s Twin Gables Motel

Crofton waterfront site called an eyesore and a nuisance property

North Cowichan is looking for public input through a survey as it updates its Master Transportation Plan. (File photo)
North Cowichan looking for public input on transportation

Online survey to be held until April 22

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

Richmond RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng said, in March, the force received a stand-out number of seven reports of incidents that appeared to have “racial undertones.” (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
‘Racially motivated’ incidents on the rise in B.C’s 4th largest city: police

Three incidents in Richmond are currently being invested as hate crimes, says RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng

Commercial trucks head south towards the Pacific Highway border crossing Wednesday (April 14, 2021). The union representing Canadian border officers wants its members to be included on the frontline priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Aaron Hinks photo)
CBSA officers’ union calls for vaccine priority in B.C.

Border officers at ports including, YVR and land crossings should ‘not be left behind’

(Amandalina Letterio - Capital News)
Kelowna demonstrators show support for Vancouver Island logging activists

Two Kelowna men stood atop a pedestrian bridge on Harvey Avenue to raise awareness about old-growth forests

A still from the video taken of a violent arrest on May 30, 2020 in downtown Kelowna. (File)
Kelowna Mountie charged with assault for caught-on-camera violent arrest

Const. Siggy Pietrzak was filmed punching a suspected impaired driver at least 10 times during an arrest

Homicide investigators who asked not to be identified put up signs Wednesday, April 14, along the Nanaimo Parkway in the area where a body was found March 31. RCMP are asking for witnesses or dash cam footage as the suspicious death has now been ruled a homicide. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Suspicious death along the highway in Nanaimo now being investigated as a homicide

RCMP identify victim as Randell Charles Thomas, repeat call for any information related to the case

Most Read