The BC Assembly of First Nations has spoken out against the stigmatization of First Nations as the COVID-19 pandemic surges on.
Following provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s comments related to the racism and discrimination against the Cowichan Tribes on Thursday, as the Indigenous community battles a COVID outbreak, the BCAFN released a statement of its own on Friday.
“We must not direct fear, blame, and anger towards groups of people who are misperceived as a threat. Any one of us could do everything right and still catch the virus,” said Regional Chief Terry Teegee. “These are dangerous times as we experience the increasing visible social sickness of racism, and both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples must pull together and work against its harmful effects. We are hopeful the end of the pandemic is in sight and we can support each other and show empathy to reduce the hurt and pain that can deeply harm communities for generations.”
In an attempt to be transparent and limit the spread, Cowichan Tribes leadership opted to go public with the band’s outbreak, which has grown to 76 cases (six recovered) since Jan. 1. Chief and council issued a shelter-in-place order on Jan. 6 that will last until at least Jan. 22.
While some were grateful for the knowledge, others were quick to judge on social media.
The BCAFN news release also said “social media platforms have been consistently used to fuel polarization and have hosted an explosion of hate speech in recent years. While there have been some changes to social media, we must ensure that these companies continue to work against bigotry and threats posted on their platforms. Everyone can also fight racism by stepping up when they see it happen and call it out.”
On Thursday Henry added her name to the list of leaders speaking out against the hate. Henry said she was “saddened and disturbed” after hearing the reports of what was going on in the Cowichan region.
“This type of racism cannot be tolerated,” Henry said. “This must stop. Racism has no place in our society, in our communities here in British Columbia and we must all take the time to speak up and speak out.”
Others who have spoken out include Cowichan Valley politicians, medical personnel, and the federal Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller.