Six Nations not releasing local statistics on coronavirus infections

By Nahnda Garlow with CP files

OHSWEKEN — Six Nations says it will not be releasing any data about coronavirus cases in the community.

TRT submitted questions to Six Nations of the Grand River Communications Officer, asking for statistical data of coronavirus cases in the territory — specifically the ages of those infected and whether or not the cases reflect contact with one another or new cases coming into the community.

In response, SNGR sent the following statement. “We are a small community – when we release specific information, it is much easier to identify members of the community. We are bound by the Personal Health Information Protection Act to protect this specific information. We will not be releasing the details [requested].”

The Personal Health Information Protection Act is a provincial law, established in 2004, to protect an individuals personal health information as collected by healthcare providers. The legislation also includes measures by which public health units and other agencies can release de-identifed statistical data as long as those details are not used to identify individuals.

When TRT pressed again for answers, stating that local statistical data about coronavirus infections in the community help to inform members where the community is at in relation to what provincial projections are and for inclusion in the public record, SNGR responded saying, “Surrounding areas have all stopped providing specifics about their positive cases.”

However this is not the case. Both Hamilton and Halton have recently released updated statistical data to their public health websites showing the ages of those infected in their communities and the number of tests conducted.

Six Nations releasing statistical data giving the number of cases with travel history or the number of cases due to community spread, facts being shared by other provincial public health agencies, would both inform the public and help individuals or businesses create their own safety plan — without violating anyone’s personal information.

SNGR went on to say, “regardless of how the virus is spread, regardless of the age of the individuals, the recommended Public Health Measures are the same. Everyone must follow the recommendations if we are going to stop the spread of the virus. Stay Home!”

Late last week the province published statistical modelling showing the direction rates of infection could go in Ontario. Projections like these are important as they prepare citizens for what to expect, alleviating stress and allowing people to feel a sense of understanding for what the world is going through.

It is generally accepted that indigenous communities may be harder hit by COVID-19 because of a higher than average number of members with pre-existing health conditions and elevated socio-economic factors that are likely to aggravate projected numbers. This is just one of the reasons indigenous leadership from across the country are calling for indigenous communities to block access to non-residents and encouraging communities to limit visitors coming into their communities.

On the national level, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says the federal government might call in the army to help First Nations, Inuit or Metis communities contend with COVID-19.

He said he does not believe Canada has yet seen the worst of the novel-coronavirus pandemic and that the country needs to take all measures to prepare for it.

Indigenous leaders from across Canada are raising alarms about COVID-19, worried that supports promised by the federal government to help First Nations, Inuit and Metis might not do enough to prevent the most vulnerable people from falling through the cracks.

Six Nations releasing local statistical data could only help calm residents and band members, empowered with the kind of facts needed to keep rumours at bay.

Last week, the Assembly of First Nations declared a state of emergency for its members, saying the money Ottawa has committed will not go far enough to meet the unique needs of Indigenous populations.

Miller said he considers these “very legitimate concerns” and that more money will be available if needed.

If a surge of cases does happen in an Indigenous or remote community and things get dire, he said plans are being developed that would see multiple resources deployed to help, including the Armed Forces.

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