Six Nations heads into 10th week of economic shut downs
SIX NATIONS – It was a sad sight across the Six Nations business community this weekend as local businesses remained shuttered and the community entered into it’s 10th week of economic lockdown. All with no indications from Elected Council on what it plans to do to assist local businesses to re-open and remove traffic restrictions on the community.
Six Nations Elected Council Chief Mark Hill addressed the public on Jukasa Radio Friday, saying Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation, Two Rivers Business Development Centre and SNGREC have tabled a proposed business stimulus package to provincial and federal governments.
That stimulus, said Hill, was to be on the agenda at Tuesday’s General Finance meeting. It was not included in the open session. No word from council if it was included in the in-camera discussions.
“We hear loud and clear the impacts this is having on our businesses,” said Hill during his interview with Jukasa Radio on Friday. “We come from a very entrepreneurial community. We have a wide range of businesses: ranging from small to large to factories to the industry of tobacco.”
Hill said there will be a phased approach to reopening the economy – much like the plans Ontario is taking.
Hill said, “We need to make it clear. The last thing we want is an influx of traffic.”
But with provincial plans now underway to slowly re-open businesses safely and no hints from the Six Nations leadership on when, how and what the local phased approach will look like —business owners are getting frustrated and worried.
In particular, tobacco industry officials are estimating a significant and possibly permanent loss to the local economy if Six Nations does not re-open soon — losses that could have a ripple effect across all of Indian Country if action is not taken quickly.
Already Six Nations tobacco outlets are losing sales to other First Nations communities. Tyendinaga in particular, which had a protection plan for local businesses in place over the course of a weekend and sits in similar proximity to its regional city centres as Six Nations does – is now seeing an influx of tobacco traffic that normally would be coming through Six Nations.
According to industry officials, Six Nations cigarette and tobacco manufacturing has all but halted. This at the request of the community’s elected leadership.
Six Nations is the only region across all of Canada where tobacco manufacturing has been asked to stop. In a community that sees nearly half of its households relying on tobacco industry income – this puts Six Nations in a potentially dangerous position of economic instability.
It also is having a ripple effect across Indian Country. Exported tobacco from Six Nations that travels to First Nations communities where everything except tobacco sales has been shut down are now seeing an 80-90% decrease in community income.
Industry officials say some indigenous communities who rely heavily on gaming and tobacco imported from Six Nations are estimating significant loses – one community predicting as high as $15 billion dollars lost – nearly half of their yearly revenue – due to a decline in travel and gaming. Tobacco export to those communities has become a lifeline that could fade soon – if Six Nations is not able to return safely to business with strict measures in place to protect workers, families and the local economy.
A total of 11 people contracted the virus including one death. That individual is believed to have contracted the virus outside of Six Nations while they were hospitalized for another health condition. All of the 10 other recorded cases have recovered. Six Nations health officials say 443 people have been tested in the community. No demographics about Six Nations local cases have been made publicly available.