Mississaugas First Nation makes preparations to face COVID-19 pandemic
DAN CEARNS The Standard
SCUGOG: Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation (MSIFN) Chief, Kelly LaRocca, believes the first nation community is well prepared to tackle the COVID-19 situation. One of the steps MSIFN has taken is, closing their offices until at least May 4th, mirroring the same timeline as publicly funded school closures in Ontario. Chief LaRocca explained to The Standard some of the other steps they are taking. “We’ve certainly encouraged our member constituents to stay home,” she said. “We have struck a pandemic committee. We are meeting on a regular basis to address what the [province] is saying, and how that affects the first nations community. We are discouraging large gatherings of people [and] taking care of our elderly and vulnerable members.” Chief LaRocca added they are limiting the operating hours of businesses on the reserve, as well as the number of patrons in a certain business at any one time. Regular sanitation of businesses is also a stressed focus. In order to keep MSIFN members informed, Chief LaRocca said they are updating citizens daily. The virus situation has already caused casinos across Ontario, like the Great Blue Heron on Scugog Island, to shut down as the province battles this pandemic. While admitting this will have an economic impact on MSIFN, Chief LaRocca had a positive outlook about the economic future post COVID-19. “We will weather that storm as we always are able to. We may have to put the donations programs on hold, but it will come back,” she said. “We are prepared to wait it out and be patient, and focus on the care and good health of our people and patrons.” Regarding why first nations communities may be more vulnerable, Chief LaRocca pointed to poorly built infrastructure, under-supply, remoteness of reserves, and the fallout of residential schools. Though Chief LaRocca said so far there are no cases of COVID-19 within the Mississaugas community, she believes the MSIFN community will come through this crisis stronger. “We are trying to remind people that as first nations people, we’ve responded to crisis [situations] time and again. We still survive,” she said. “It’s time for our people to come together and do what we do best.” She also sees this as a learning opportunity for everyone in Ontario. “I think we will learn from this and become better prepared.” Chief LaRocca also has a message for everyone. “I really wish that everyone in Scugog township and beyond is provided for and taken care of, and that everyone’s families are safe and healthy,” she said.