Good morning. It’s James Keller in Calgary.
The Siksika Nation, about an hour-and-a-half drive east of Calgary, has about 4,000 residents on the reserve. More than 300 of them are the focus of health officials as they look into possible cases of COVID-19.
The reserve has 10 active cases. But Siksika Health Services is also investigating at least 317 possible cases – a number that has increased rapidly from just 58 a few days ago.
Chief Ouray Crowfoot has been posting regular video updates for the community on Facebook, telling them that the risk of community spread is high. The Chief says the past few days have been challenging and the COVID-19 situation is already taxing local health resources.
Those challenges have been amplified by a shortage of testing swabs, prompting Siksika Health to limit testing to people with symptoms, at least until new supplies arrive early next week.
Mr. Crowfoot is urging residents to follow health guidelines around masks and physical distancing, and to limit gatherings to 10 people.
First Nations communities have been identified as particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, and the federal government announced $285-million for the response. First Nations health care is a federal responsibility.
So far, the data show that First Nations communities have managed the pandemic, keeping infections low and flattening the curve. There have been 307 cases of COVID-19 on reserves across Canada – including 88 in Alberta – and six deaths.
Mr. Crowfoot says his community can still act now to keep COVID-19 in check.
“If we continue to stay vigilant and to do our best to avoid travel and avoid gatherings, we have a chance to slow down the spread on our nation and also give our health team a chance to do their job,” he said.
This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here. This is a new project and we’ll be experimenting as we go, so let us know what you think.
AROUND THE WEST
MORE RCMP FOR RURAL ALBERTA: The RCMP says it will add 76 additional Mounties to Alberta this year, many of whom will serve as front-line police in rural detachments outside major municipalities. There will also be 57 new civilian support positions. RCMP say some of the additional Mounties are to serve in detachments at Beaverlodge, Edson, Evansburg, Mayerthorpe and Valleyview. In the south, detachments in Airdrie, Cochrane, Okotoks and Strathmore will get more police. Officials say the staffing increase is part of a five-year, $286-million policing agreement announced by the Alberta government in December.
CAREGIVERS ON THE MARGINS: While experts say the work of unpaid caregivers has been undersupported and undervalued for years, the impacts of COVID-19 are hitting some caregivers especially hard. Jesse Winter has the story of Mark Usher, who spent a year pulling together a handful of homeless and marginally housed seniors and finding a house with rent they could afford to share. Caring for his four roommates and managing the house is a full-time job for Mr. Usher, and he does it essentially for free.
KEYSTONE XL: Alberta will step up its presence in the United States over the coming weeks as the province tries to shore up political and public support for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project ahead of the presidential election. Premier Jason Kenney also wants the Canadian government to step up communications with the United States and underscore the importance of pipeline-transported oil to the trade relationship between the two countries, particularly as Americans gear up for a presidential election in which Democratic candidate Joe Biden has said he would cancel the Keystone XL permit. Construction on the Alberta leg of the long-delayed 2,000 kilometre-long pipeline began Friday in the small community of Oyen, about 40 kilometres west of the province’s border with Saskatchewan.
FLIGHT RISK: At least two flights every day into or within Canada carried a passenger with a confirmed case of COVID-19 over the course of a week in June, according to federal data, raising concerns about the increased risk of transmission as more people start to travel. From June 17 to 23, at least eight domestic flights and five international flights into the country had a person with COVID-19 on board, according to the federal government. Most of the domestic flights originated in Toronto, along with two from Vancouver and one from Winnipeg. Some of the international flights arrived in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal from places such as Los Angeles, New Delhi and Port-au-Prince, while others connected through Canada on to other destinations.
A LONG RIDE COMES TO AN END: It wasn’t quite a parade, but Brazilian long rider Filipe Masetti Leite was still happy to reach the finish line. The 33-year-old completed a 3,400-kilometre journey on horseback from Alaska to Calgary on Friday morning, the same day the Calgary Stampede was supposed to begin. Although the annual event and a parade to kick it off were cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Masetti Leite was crowned this year’s parade marshal.
SASKATCHEWAN’S MASKS: Saskatchewan’s Health Minister says the province has learned lessons from a decision several years ago to clear thousands of expired safety masks from the province’s stockpile. The issue was raised by the Opposition NDP, which says the province hired a consultant that year to clear some of its pandemic inventory. Health Minister Jim Reiter says there is not a current shortage of personal protective equipment but Saskatchewan faced supply-chain pressures, as did other provinces, when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit in the spring. He added that officials are putting plans in place to ensure supplies such as masks aren’t left to expire.
WINNIPEG TEEN CHARGED: Winnipeg police have charged a 14-year-old with four recent shootings, including a homicide on Canada Day. The boy, who cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, faces one count of first-degree murder in the death of a 27-year-old woman and a slew of shooting charges. “I think it’s going to be terrifying and concerning for a lot of Winnipeg the fact that we would have so much violence and committed by such a young individual,” Const. Jay Murray said Friday.”The reality is, we can acknowledge, that we don’t believe any of these victims knew the shooter.”
UGLY BROADWAY: There is a short section on the western end of Broadway that feels like the high street of a pleasant village – trees, a stretch of small local shops with canopies, a few sidewalk tables, interesting paving stones at the intersections and drivers who suddenly slow to a meander. But the rest of one of Vancouver’s most important east-west arteries is simply ugly. Now, with the decision to put the Broadway Skytrain underneath the street, business owners and those who pay close attention to city planning are hoping Broadway gets a long-awaited transformation.
HOUSING REBOUND: Vancouver’s housing market rebounded in June, with sales and prices rising, as fears of the coronavirus pandemic subsided and buyers resumed their hunt for a home. Last month, 2,443 homes sold in the Vancouver region, an 18-per-cent increase over the previous June, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. That was 65-per-cent higher than May, when the market was starting to recover from pandemic restrictions. But still below the 10-year average for last month.
“QUEUE JUMPERS:” Premier John Horgan says Americans travelling through British Columbia on their way to Alaska or returning home should not stop in the province while COVID-19 cases continue rising in the United States. Mr. Horgan said Thursday he’s heard concerns that Americans have stopped at Vancouver hotels and in stores on Vancouver Island instead of heading straight to their destination, putting local residents at risk. Mr. Horgan said he has spoken with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland about the need for her to discuss the issue with U.S. officials. B.C. has kept its infection rates low and the province’s progress should not be lost to “queue jumpers” as outbreaks of COVID-19 have increased in many states, he said.
WELLNESS CHECK: The spotlight on how police respond to mental-health calls has prompted an RCMP commander in B.C. to push for the expansion of teams that pair an officer and a nurse. Chief Supt. Brad Haugli of the southeast district said Thursday that the police and crisis program has been effective in de-escalating situations involving people in crisis and helped ease the referral process when treatment is necessary.
Kelly Cryderman on Jason Kenney’s economic recovery plan: “Four months into the COVID-19 pandemic, what stands out about Mr. Kenney’s government is its unwillingness to bend from the conservative political philosophy it laid out during last year’s campaign. In fact, it is doubling down.”
Max Fawcett on Jason Kenney’s economic recovery plan: “If nothing else, it offers conclusive proof that his government does believe in recycling. But this blue bin of previously announced spending and previously attempted policies is a long way from the ‘bold’ plan that was promised. It also stands in stark contrast to the work happening at other levels of government, both here in Canada and around the world, where everything from basic incomes to job guarantees are being seriously discussed.”
Jeffrey Jones on the inquiry into funding of Albertan environmental groups: “The Alberta government’s inquiry into foreign charities beating up on the oil industry has been an act of political theatre in response to a shaky premise from the get-go. Now, in the midst of an economic crisis, Premier Jason Kenney’s decision to extend the probe’s deadline and top up its budget by another $1-million calls into question his government’s priorities.”
The Globe and Mail’s Editorial Board on Edmonton’s rethink on parking: “Some cities have started to move away from parking requirements for new buildings, but they are doing it slowly, and usually only in specific circumstances. Edmonton, however, decided to go further. Last week, city council eliminated parking minimums from its zoning rules for all developments across the city, the first big city in Canada to do so. All Canadian cities should take inspiration. Edmonton is thinking about what kind of city it wants to be in 2050. To quote a guiding maxim of a famous former Edmontonian: ‘Skate to where the puck’s going and not where it’s been.’”