Current Problems

Health (18-24)

Work Camps and COVID-19

December 15, 2020

The Tyee – Wet’suwet’en Elders in Witset have identified five COVID-19 cases directly linked “to workers returning from job sites at an LNG Canada plant in Kitimat and the Coastal GasLink pipeline camps closer to home. Those have led to spread of the virus within their community…That spread — the second cluster of cases there in recent months — began two weeks ago, around the time 22 Ts’ako ze’ (female chiefs) wrote to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry expressing concerns about work camps continuing to operate on Wet’suwet’en territory during the pandemic. Violet Gellenbeck, one of the chiefs who signed the letter, says they’re still waiting for an answer.

In their letter, Ts’ako ze’ representing the nation’s five clans expressed particular concern with three camps on Wet’suwet’en territory in Burns Lake, south of Houston and near the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre. Gellenbeck says camp workers who test positive for the disease are sent home without consideration for who they live with or their ability to self-isolate. The letter from the Wet’suwet’en Ts’ako ze’ was followed on Dec. 5 by a letter written by Ron Mitchell, Hereditary Chief Hagwilnegh, on behalf of the nation’s Dinï’ze, or male chiefs. Hundreds of health and social workers have also signed an open letter to Henry expressing concern about the camps. Last week, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs also called on the province to close the camps.