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Kanesatake enters state of emergency

Due to safety measures and with the community’s help, Kanesatake was able to remain COVID-free during the first five months of the pandemic while the rest of the world was hit by the virus. (VIRGINIE ANN THE EASTERN DOOR)

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The news everyone dreaded was finally announced.

The Quebec government declared on September 21 that the province has entered the second wave of COVID-19, and new measures were implemented over the Montreal, Quebec City and Chaudière-Appalaches regions.

They are all considered in the “red zone,” placing Kanesatake in the highest level of the COVID-19 alert. As of Wednesday, September 30, Quebec recorded 838 new cases, and the community currently has no active cases.

This being said, the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) spokesperson Robert Bonspiel said everyone needs to remain vigilant.

“If we don’t do this now, Christmas might be wiped off the map for us,” said Bonspiel, reiterating words of both the prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau and premier of Quebec, François Legault.

The new measures imposed by the Quebec government, which the ERU will be following, were framed under a 28-day challenge, starting on Thursday, October 1.

Bonspiel explained that the idea is to lower the number of cases in order to prevent an overload of hospitalization. It implies the closure of bars and restaurants, along with no public or private gatherings.

Bonspiel said that since Kanesatake has not seen any community cases as of yet, they are not looking to shut down stores, however businesses need to be responsible and aware.

“I don’t care if it’s your anniversary, we cannot have a large group of people coming into this community and contaminate Kanesatake,” said Bonspiel.

Over the last little while, Kanesatake has seen a rise in outdoor parties on the territory with gatherings of well over 200 people, according to various sources.

“People are partying and breaking all the directives, no social distancing or wearing masks,” said a source that asked to remain anonymous.

“Community members are terrified of this pandemic and with all this other stuff from car racing to food trucks, martial arts fights and musical bands, it only jeopardizes the health and safety of the community! It needs to stop,” said the source.

Although the ERU’s main objective is to manage COVID-19 in the community, Bonspiel responded to complaints of inactions by explaining that the ERU lacks policing forces that would assist in intervening.

“I’m one guy, I’m not a police officer,” said Bonspiel.

He also confirmed that they have been made informed of community members placing calls to the Surete du Quebec (SQ). Yet the SQ spokesperson, Marc Tessier claimed that they were not aware of such parties nor complaints.

“It’s a state of lawlessness with no governing body,” said the anonymous source. “We need law and order with an effective government and a police force that will bring back some normality in this community.”

With the second wave threatening the health of the community, the ERU asked in their latest video shared on their Facebook page for everyone to take responsibility in keeping each other safe.

“When we decide to work together as a community, there’s nothing we can’t achieve,” said Bonspiel. “Let’s look at this as a challenge and attestation of what we are capable of doing,” he added.

Riverside Elder’s Home

Part of the measures that were announced by the ERU reinforced the no-visitation rule at the Riverside Elder’s Home.

Criticism from certain staff and family members who wished to see their elders were brought forward in a recent article published by The Eastern Door. It raised concerns as to whether or not the Elder’s Home had the proper management to deal with the pandemic.

When asked about these issues, the ERU recognized that changes are necessary, but it also emphasized the fact that their approach helped prevent the spread of the disease.

“I understand that people want to see their families, but they also have to understand that we are doing our best,” said Bonspiel. “The ERU empathize with all the families and elders, our priority is to find a solution that is safe for everyone,” continued Bonspiel.

Bonspiel said that the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake and the Health Centre are currently addressing the human resources issues to put together a cohesive staff.

For Clifton Nicholas, one of the community members that has previously voiced his concerns, this is not enough.

“How many years is it gonna take to do this?” said Clifton, whose mother Janet has been a resident at Riverside for the past three years. “It’s not good enough, you got to do better.”

Nicholas wishes the community was consulted on how to handle the situation. He explained that it would be better if everyone could help, and it felt less like they were just being dictated what to do.

“All we asked was a little patience and it wasn’t given to us,” said Bonspiel.

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