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Nipissing First Nation ‘reopening’ a matter of health not economics

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‘We’re governing our community based on the best health and science advice. We’re not doing it based on economics,’ says Chief McLeod in assessing the situation in Ontario as a whole. ‘But, we also don’t have shopping malls or restaurants in the community, so it’s a bit different.’

Nipissing First Nation will open at its own pace — while taking cues from the provincial government on certain matters, such as education and childcare.

This from Chief Scott McLeod, who says the geography and demographics of NFN played a part in how much was really closed during the COVID-19 pandemic in the first place. McLeod points out truly closing the community is near impossible and NFN focused instead on hygiene and physical distancing messaging.

“Just our geographical situation between North Bay and West Nipissing and the 25 kilometres of Trans-Canada Highway that splits our First Nation, with numerous access points to our villages —it was very logistically challenging for us to be able to effectively do that.”

The Chiefs of Ontario recently encouraged First Nations communities in the province to remain closed as health officials braced for a spike in COVID-19 cases as restrictions began to loosen, a recommendation backed by Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald.

“I know what the messaging is for,” says McLeod of the warnings. “It’s for smaller communities, especially the northern communities that don’t have a lot of health services in those areas, so it’s a very precarious situation for them if they were to get COVID-19 in their community.”

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