Canadian troops have arrived at the Bearskin Lake First Nation community in northern Ontario to conduct an “initial assessment,” according to federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair.
Blair said in a tweet Saturday afternoon that Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members arrived in the community after receiving a formal request from the provincial government on Jan. 6.
“Officials from across government are working closely with community leadership to get support where it is needed,” he said.
Three CAF members from a patrol group in Borden, Ont., conducted the initial assessment Saturday to determine how troops could help with the government’s response, according to a Defence Department spokesperson.
On Jan. 7, Bearskin Lake Chief Lefty Kamenawatamin said the remote community is “almost at a breaking point” after 201 of its 400 residents were infected with COVID-19, resulting in a state of emergency.
Kamenawatamin called on the federal government to send urgent aid in a news conference Friday, including staff to distribute essential supplies such as food, water and wood stoves to keep residents warm in temperatures as low as -30 C.
There are currently around 30 front-line workers in the community.
“We need the help now and boots on the ground,” Kamenawatamin said.
Around 80 per cent of the community is vaccinated but they are short on testing kits and places to isolate, the chief said, which is now necessary for a large portion of residents.
More to come.
— with files from the Canadian Press
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