On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. APTN News is reporting from across the country on the viral outbreak and how it is impacting Indigenous communities. Click here for more: COVID-19
Lindsay Richardson and Todd Lamirande
The province of Quebec now leads the country with the most diagnosed cases of COVID-19 including two new cases in the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake.
More than 400 people tested positive overnight bringing the total to 1,013 as of this posting. That includes two people in Kahnawake south of Montreal where residents have been locked down since last week.
“Not to be an alarmist, but the overall situation in our area has gotten worse,” said Lloyd Phillips, commissioner of public safety in Quebec. “Despite measures that have been taken, the virus has moved.”
Both cases in Kahnawake were patients at the Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre.
This despite reassurances that a working doctor self-isolated before infecting others.
But officials aren’t surprised.
“We can say with very good, almost total, 100 per cent certainty, that we are going to see an increase in the number of positive cases in the Kahnawake community shortly,” said Lisa Westaway, executive director of the hospital.
Watch Politician Man:
Following the news, the community fortified its lockdown.
All non-essential businesses in Kahnawake are closed.
Even though measures are still being added, the province says it doesn’t mean they’re not working.
“There is no playbook to what we’re doing,” said Phillips. “We’re in a very unique situation in Kahnawake compared to other First Nations, since we’re right in the middle of a metropolitan area.”
Phillips warned of a potential spike in confirmed cases.
As cities like Montreal ramp up their testing capacity, the province will lock down at midnight Tuesday, also closing all non-essential businesses.
Police in Montreal are now authorized to hand out fines and arrest those who aren’t practicing social distancing.
No cases have been reported in Nunavik.
The Cree of Eeyou Itschee said in a statement that their situation remains “unchanged.”
Quebec public health is investigating the two new cases in Kahnawake and will inform those at risk.
People are being encouraged to stay connected and informed – but stay calm.
“I’m really asking you not to give up – this is not unexpected. This is expected. We don’t give up,” said Westaway.
“We’re ready for this.
Feds fail to pass COVID-19 aid package over ‘power grab’
In Ottawa, efforts to pass legislation that will free up an $82 billion aid package for Canadians suffering because of the COVID-19 virus will continue Tuesday evening.
As of this posting, 2,631 people have tested positive across the country. Twenty-eight people have died and hundreds of thousands are out of work because of measures taken to stem the spread of the virus including shutting down businesses and travel.
At issue is a provision in the legislation proposed by the Liberals that will allow the government to tax and spend freely until December 2021.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said earlier that his party would support emergency efforts to get money to Canadians struggling with the COVID-19 crisis, but would oppose any “power grab” by the Liberal government.
His warning came a couple of hours before a small group of 32 MPs gathered in the Commons to debate and vote on legislation to deliver $82-billion in financial aid and tax deferrals to individuals and businesses, as proposed last week by the Liberal government to deal with COVID-19 and its ensuing economic havoc.
They convened as scheduled at noon Eastern time. However, the sitting no sooner began than government House leader Pablo Rodriguez asked that it be suspended so that the government could continue negotiating details of the legislation with opposition parties.
“Canadians need support to get through this. Fast,” Rodriguez tweeted shortly after the sitting was suspended.
“The negotiations with other parties are still ongoing and the House will resume later today. We all need to come together and get this done. Canadians are counting on us.”
The Liberals had said they would change the legislation before tabling it in the Commons but Scheer indicated during his morning news conference that the Conservatives had not seen a final draft.
“Today, Conservatives would like to focus on Canadians and passing the measures the prime minister announced last week,” he said. “Any conversation about new government powers should not get in the way of passing this much-needed assistance. Canadians are counting on us.”
The government and opposition leaders are reportedly negotiating details of the package and will meet again Tuesday evening.
Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner said the opposition needed to stand up to the government.
“We have an opposition that is doing its job of making sure that we’re taking the right steps the right way. And that’s why we’re working on drafting the right legislation right up until the last minute,” she said on social media.
The new legislation is expected to go to the Senate Wednesday and receive royal assent shortly after.
During his daily media briefing in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about a backlog of COVID-19 test results.
“We are moving to acclerate the process because testing is not about giving people peace of mind, it’s an essential element for the public health response that will keep us all safe,” he said.
At her own briefing shortly after the prime minister spoke, Canada’s public heath physician Dr. Theresa Tam acknowledged speedier tests are needed.
Especially for remote communities and in the territories.
“And our national mcirobiology lab has acquired some of these rapid tests, modalities, right now. And they are quality assuring them to make sure they can actually diagnose. and then that will be very soon that will be able to, if they work, be it then to roll it out.”