Tla’amin Nation chief Clint Williams will meet officials on Wednesday and decide whether to delay an election this Saturday, as COVID-19 numbers double and heavy smoke tests its members.
The Tla’amin Nation outbreak is the second largest of any Indigenous community in B.C., after the 26-case Haida Gwaii outbreak that was declared over at the end of August.
Williams said heavy smoke due to wildfires raging in Washington, Oregon and California was making it harder on sick band members who had tested positive and were recovering at home.
There were four cases reported last Tuesday, when a state of emergency was declared and a stay-in-place order issued.
On Friday there were 10 cases, and according to Williams there were 20 confirmed cases on Sunday.
At least two of those cases have been hospitalized.
“Due to poor air conditions, additional check-ins are now scheduled for those members recovering at home,” Williams said. The nation is served by the First Nations Health Authority but its COVID numbers are reported by Vancouver Coastal Health.
“We are very concerned about air quality and how this will impact our relatives recovering from COVID-19,” Williams said. “Just as we are starting to feel optimistic that our aggressive measures are paying off, the air quality advisory adds a new challenge.”
Williams said that an election planned for this Saturday Sept. 19 could be postponed.
“Tla’amin Nation Legislature will meet with the electoral officer on Wednesday September 16 to determine if the Nation’s election scheduled for September 19 will be postponed,” he said.
The election for a hegus (chief) and eight assembly members occurs every four years and is set this year for in-person, electronic or mail-in ballots.
The federal government introduced the First Nations Elections Act in 2015 — with four-year terms, compared to two-years under Indian Act regulations. First Nations can hold elections according to Indian Act rules, the First Nations Elections Act, the community constitution of a self-government agreement, or band customs.
Tla’amin Nation has around 1,100 members, of whom roughly 700 live in their territory.