Letter: For greater clarification on the cottages in Birch Island

Modeling shows, with no action taken, 19 Whitefish River First Nation members would die

To the Expositor:

Re: ‘Birch Island denies access to cottagers with leased lots,’ April 15, Page 1.

I have always been taught that life is sacred. I take that seriously. This is a critical time in which we hold each other’s lives in our hands. Each person’s every day actions matter more than ever.

The tagline of this pandemic has been “stay home, save lives.” Our First Nation is asking cottagers to do no more than that. What we are asking of our cottagers is consistent with advice from the top doctor in Canada and the messages from the premier, who have both urged cottagers to remain home for a while.

Laws from all governments are requiring people to take difficult measures at this time: To stop work; to avoid many activities; to avoid gatherings. Our First Nation is no different. This is a hard time for our members. We had a death recently, and we could not allow a normal funeral. This is not normal life.

But it is important for everyone to follow the laws in place, whether that’s First Nations laws, federal, provincial or municipal. When it comes to cottagers, we are not evicting anyone and not terminating anyone’s lease. Cottagers have to follow the laws like everyone else. Most of our cottage tenants completely get this—and I totally get that those laws are not fun to follow right now—but lives are at stake.

A nurse working with us told me that eight percent of Ontario’s population has a chronic health condition vulnerable to COVID-19, and in our community that number is 75 percent. Think about that. This is not the place to “ride out the pandemic.” First Nation reserves are the pandemic’s most vulnerable targets.

We look forward to reaching the time when we can welcome cottagers back to Birch Island.

Chief Shining Turtle

Whitefish River First Nation