First Nations leaders in B.C. say they’re doing all they can do to protect their people from the COVID-19 virus, but with cases on the rise and a possible second wave coming this fall, 21 First Nations are now calling on the province to share more specific information on where confirmed and presumptive cases are located.

“All we hear is there are 10 new cases or four new cases on the island, we don’t know if it’s in our backyards, we don’t know where those are,” said Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council President Judith Sayers.

“And it’s really hard to plan and it’s really hard to prevent if you don’t have that information.”

The coalition of 14 Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council First Nations on Vancouver Island, representing 10,000 people, along with the Heiltsuk Nation and Tsilhqot’in National Government on the mainland are applying to the B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner for an order to disclose proximate case information.

“We certainly don’t want to know the person’s name but under Freedom of Information, the minister has the ability to provide information that would override individual information if there is a great harm, a great risk and that’s what we’re asking the privacy commissioner to rule on, is this a great risk to a group of people and we think it is,” added Sayers.

“And we’ve been asking how do you guys think this isn’t a risk to us and they’ve never given us an answer.”

On Tuesday, Health Minister Adrian Dix acknowledged the application but said disclosure rules aren’t changing.

“I understand this issue of information is an important one, but we’re just going to keep working with people and trying to ensure everybody from the First Nations Health Authority to First Nation’s governments to the health authorities are doing a good job and are getting what they need,” said Dix.

It leaves First Nations leaders frustrated saying their governments aren’t getting the respect promised under reconciliation.

“And we really think that we have rights as governments to have this information so that we can save the lives of our members and that’s how critical it is, it’s about the lives of people,” said Sayers.

The coalition is hoping for an answer from the privacy commissioner as soon as possible.

Dean Stoltz