Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nation’s Health Director Dean Wilson is reminding North Island residents not to jump to conclusions and to do their homework before making any social distancing complaints.
“On April 24, at the very end of the day, I received an email from the First Nations Health Authority,” stated Wilson, who went on to explain that they were “passing on a complaint that the Vancouver Island Health Authority had received about non-compliance with regards to public health orders, specifically prohibiting large gatherings of people.”
The health authority stated that a complainant, who is a resident of Port Hardy, reported that there was a wedding held recently on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nation land with over 150 people attending from various local bands.
Wilson stressed the Port Hardy resident’s complaint was emphatically false. There was no wedding and there was not 150 people from various bands attending the reserve at any time.
“Our on-reserve school is presently doing distance learning online, just like all the schools in the province, and in order to show support for the students who are missing school, the school organized a vehicle parade,” stated Wilson, adding that it was similar to what people are doing these days “for birthday parties and the 7:00 p.m. shoutout for essential service workers. The intention was to do something in that same mode of thought, and in the same mode of showing that appreciation, so they organized a parade with staff in their own vehicles who were abiding by the physical distancing rules, and they drove through the communities honking their horns.”
Wilson noted there were a total of 25 vehicles in the parade. “It was pretty big and they were honking horns and some of the vehicles had balloons on them, so my initial thought is that someone has mistaken this supportive parade for students as the celebratory honking that sometimes takes place after a wedding — I have no idea why this person would have thought there were 150 people gathering from other communities, because the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nation has been extremely cautious in dealing with the COVID-19. We have 24 hour security in place that are logging people coming and going, and council has passed a bylaw to be able to provide support services and educate the community and enforce the standards the community has put in place to reduce the possibility of COVID-19 transmission.”
Wilson stated he thinks the complainant had jumped to conclusions without actually checking out the situation, and it unfortunately has caused rumours to spread, which he wants to shut down. “We take seriously the recommendations from Dr. Bonnie Henry, and we are concerned our neighbours in Port Hardy may have mistaken the event, and we want to be clear with them that it was in no way a gathering that would have breached Dr. Henry’s orders.”
He also added that he would like people to know that “making a report like this is a serious event, and people who are breaching orders can be subject to massive fines, and we take that seriously — Making a malicious, false complaint is a serious matter.”