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

FOI records provided to the News Bulletin from the City of Nanaimo in 2018. (News Bulletin file photo)
Samra’s numerous FOI requests to City of Nanaimo aren’t ‘vexatious,’ privacy commissioner decides

Former CAO says records will assist her in a future B.C. Human Rights Tribunal hearing

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Two Nanaimo care-home residents have died during COVID-19 outbreak

Death reported Monday was the second related to Chartwell Malaspina outbreak, says Island Health

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Nanaimo RCMP are seeking the public’s help after a man allegedly assaulted a clerk at James General Store on Victoria Road on Jan. 18. (Submitted photo)
Suspect screams at customer then assaults store clerk on Nanaimo’s Victoria Road

RCMP asking for information about Jan. 18 incident at James General Store

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Rod Bitten of Union Bay won $500,000 in the Lotto Max draw on Jan. 15. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island electrician gets shocking surprise with $500K Extra win

Rod Bitten has been hard at work with home renovations, which is… Continue reading

Rendering of two residential buildings proposed for the corner of Haliburton and Milton streets. (Matthew T. Hansen Architect image)
Two five-storey residential buildings approved for Haliburton Street

City council issues development permit for 79-unit complex at Haliburton and Milton

A suspect has been arrested in connection with fires at Drinkwater Elementary (pictured) and École Mount Prevost. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Arson suspect arrested after fires at Cowichan Valley schools

Drinkwater Elementary and Mount Prevost schools hit within a week

Oyster River Fire Rescue members were called out to a suspicious fire in Black Creek. Two vehicles parked at a private residence were destroyed by fire. Photo courtesy Oyster River Fire Rescue
Suspicious fire destroys two vehicles at Vancouver Island residence

Oyster River Fire Rescue personnel were dispatched to a fire at a… Continue reading

Members of the BC RCMP Explosive Disposal Unit (EDU) is on route to Drummond Park opposite of Fulford Habour on Saltspring Island after the discovery of a suspicious cylindrical-shaped device. (Google/Screencap)
Bomb disposal unit en route to Salt Spring Island after suspicious device found in park

Police say a resident discovered the device Wednesday morning in Drummond Park opposite BC Ferries terminal

Seven streets in downtown Duncan, including Station Street, will soon have new native names added to their signage. (Submitted graphic)
New Duncan street signs will be in English and Hul’q’umi’num

Seven streets to get additional names in First Nations language

Most Read