A First Nations community near Hamilton of about 13,000 on-reserve members is reporting its first death related to COVID-19.
In an address to community members on Facebook late Wednesday, Six Nations of the Grand River Chief Mark Hill said it is with great sadness that he must report the death. He did not provide details of the deceased.
“Our community is grieving,” Chief Hill said. “Our hearts and prayers are with the family.”
Public health officials and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have conceded that First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities face greater vulnerabilities in the fight against COVID-19 due to health inequities including the higher proportion of community members with underlying medical conditions.
The death in Six Nations comes less than two weeks after the first confirmed case in the community, Chief Hill said Thursday, adding there are currently eight cases within Six Nations territory.
Six Nations said it will not reveal specifics about the confirmed cases, citing privacy regulations, according to a Wednesday report by Two Row Times, a weekly publication covering issues in the community.
Public health officials are strongly encouraging community members to practice measures, including physical distancing and hand-washing, to slow the spread of transmission in the community, Chief Hill said.
“When all of this is over, we will hold each other close,” he said. “But right now, we need to show unimaginable strength and do everything in our power to ensure we don’t lose anymore lives.”
The community has restricted non-residents from accessing their territory, with several exceptions such as for those delivering goods.
Leaders in Six Nations are also urging community members to stay home over the Easter weekend.
“This needs to be an Easter with only immediate family who live with you," said Six Nations Councillor Nathan Wright in a video update on Monday. “If not, this could very well become a spring full of suffering and loss. I want to repeat: Easter 2020 is not a time to gather.”
On Monday, the Grand River Champion of Champions Pow Wow, a popular event held in Six Nations in July each year, was cancelled.
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