Northern community check-stops unwelcome but effective
- Judith Iron | February 09, 2021
The blockades and check stops on reserves in the north are getting thumbs up and thumbs down.
Many band members are happy to stay safe in a new version of a gated community, but others are unhappy because they feel their freedom is being restricted.
Besides preventing and tracing COVID-19 outbreaks, the gates double as check-stops to prevent drugs and alcohol from entering communities.
New rules and a new way of life have become the 'new norm' everywhere because of the coronavirus.
Canoe Lake Cree Nation follows the guidelines of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, upsetting many band members. The entire community is expected to be diligent and vigilant to help flatten the curve and avoid an outbreak.
The reserve remains closed to non-resident band members as well as unknown guests and travelers.
“They wouldn't let me come in to deliver things to my daughter or even to get gas to go home,” said Laura Iron. “I came all the way from Muskeg Lake to make sure my grand-kids had what they needed for this lock down. I couldn't see them. I had to leave the things at the gate.”
Band members are being told to stay home. The community is enforcing limits on persons in any public place, masks are mandatory, hand sanitizing is being enforced in doorways and social distancing is enforced in all businesses.
“We have a sanitizer at the door and ask everyone to wear masks if they want to enter the store,” said General Store owner Terry Ann Durocher. “It's a scary time, but we are doing what we can to protect our customers and to avoid getting or spreading the virus.”
The band office is closed to the public. The clinic requires a telephone call before you come or attend an appointment. The school is temporarily shut down and classes are being done online.
A community patrol enforces a 9:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew that keeps band members inside their homes and no visiting is permitted because no more than five people can be in a house unless they live there.
Drugs and alcohol have become an absolute no-no in the community. Parties and impromptu social gatherings are prohibited because they’re known to have greater potential for leading to an outbreak. Shopping for food and essential supplies is allowed twice a month and it is suggested that shopping be done by one person per household. That person is expected to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return.
If you have a medical appointment, you have to produce medical papers to prove you are traveling to and from the appointment.
On the upside, the many gates in the north help to protect the residents' health and safety. On the down side, some band members don't appreciate the restrictions. But, as a result, many First Nations communities are still COVID free and some are now also drug and alcohol free.
It just goes to show that good can come from what some might consider bad at the time.