Roughly 2% of the Canadian population has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus to date. But in La Loche, Saskatchewan, an outbreak attacked more than 7% of the village, together with the nearby First Nations Reserve.
Reserve communities have generally suffered only a quarter of the COVID-19 cases compared to other Canadian communities. Part of the reason for this is the protection that isolation can provide. Some living on the North American continent might consider Saskatoon, a mid-sized Canadian city, to be isolated. La Loche is 600km further northwest.
But should COVID-19 breach the barrier of distance, there are overcrowding and health issues in most indigenous communities that make them vulnerable to an epidemic. La Loche proved to be no exception.
How to cope with a pandemic in rural isolation with few existing health resources? The answers were far from obvious and took unprecedented cooperation by all levels of government from the feds to the the local Métis Nation.1
For those interested in preparing isolated communities with limited resources, whether indigenous or not, the lessons learned and methods of implemented by La Loche and the Clearwater River Dene Nation will be particularly useful.
- French-speaking fur-traders with native American wives evolved the Métis Nation, an aboriginal people scattered across eastern and central Canada who traditionally spoke French as a first language. The Canada Day parade in the picture above passes the corner of Toulejour Street, its sign a mixture of French and English.