‘It’s just wrong’: Cowichan Tribes members subjected to racism as COVID-19 cases climb

Chek
WatchResidents of Cowichan Tribes say they are being targeted online and on the streets, since positive cases of COVID-19 were identified in their community. Skye Ryan has more.

Barb Jimmy is still stunned by the phone call she received from her Duncan dentist’s office.

The 62-year-old says her dentist called and cancelled her upcoming appointment due to the rising cases of COVID-19 in Cowichan Tribes.

“It’s just wrong,” said Jimmy, a Cowichan Tribes member. “It’s all around us, we’re not the only ones affected by this disease.”

“People need to know how our people are being treated within our own community,” adds Jimmy.

The 62-year-old said she was asked only if she still lived on-reserve, which she does, and none of the standard COVID-19 screening questions.

“I think her whole moral and ethical attitude was wrong,” said Jimmy.

Cowichan Tribes members are reporting dozens of incidents like that.

Since the First Nations Health Authority revealed publicly that the Vancouver Island community of seven first Nations Villages is dealing with, Monday, 70 positive cases of COVID-19.

“People are freaking out, ‘oh there’s COVID-19 on Cowichan Tribes,'” said Mayor of North Cowichan, Al Siebring.

“There’s COVID everywhere folks. We just don’t know the numbers in Duncan or North Cowichan or Saanich,” said Siebring.

In Duncan, a Tim Horton’s coffee shop has closed its lobby, the sign reads, “due to the shelter in place order by Cowichan Tribes.”

Customer Crystal Head, said it shows how the First Nations is being singled out.

“I think it’s an overreaction,” said Head. “All of Duncan is open except for the Timmies. They’ve got all their borders up they got their screens, what are they are afraid of.”

North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring, said he was disgusted by the comments he read online.

“Really egregious [comments],” said Siebring. “Like why don’t these natives go back to hunting and fishing and isolate from our community. Somebody else said folks that are First Nations that work in retail here they should just be fired until COVID is done.”

“That’s the stuff we’re dealing with,” he added.

Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone agreed the tone he’d seen had been horrible and hateful.

“This isn’t the time to be separate,” said Mayor Aaron Stone.

“To be fighting with each other, to be racist,” he said.

MLA Sonia Furstenau took to Twitter, writing that people “must rise to what is needed of us, which is kindness, compassion and empathy.”

Meanwhile, Jimmy has informed her dentist’s office that she won’t be back and hopes Cowichan Tribes members embrace the support they are getting from this community, and not from those who choose to hate.

A sign at Tim Hortons in Duncan tells people that the inside lobby of the store is closed due to rising COVID-19 cases on the nearby Cowichan Tribes. (CHEK News)

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Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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