The team at the security gate leading into Kitamaat Village makes sure that only community members or those who have permission enter the Village. These measures have been in place at Kitamaat Village and at other Indigenous communities since the beginning of the pandemic, to help minimize COVID-19 cases in the communities. (Clare Rayment)

Kitamaat Village access checkpoint will remain in place for the time being, Chief Councillor says

The Haisla community will keep their restricted access checkpoint up for now, for COVID-19 safety.

Haisla Nation Chief Councillor, Crystal Smith, said Kitamaat Village will be keeping their restricted access checkpoint in place and running at the entrance to the Village for the foreseeable future.

Despite many other areas around B.C. becoming more relaxed in their COVID-19 restrictions, Smith said Kitamaat Village decided, as a community, to keep the checkpoint up for their members’ safety.

“As the number [of COVID-19 cases) declined…in our area, we were uncertain as to whether or not we would continue with the checkpoint,” Smith said. “So we actually allowed our members to voice their point of view as to whether or not the restricted access point should remain.”

Haisla Nation members were able to respond to a virtual survey and call each of the band members on reserve to voice whether or not they wanted the checkpoint to stay up or not. Smith said the majority wanted it to stay active, as they felt safer with it in place.

“[The community] felt safe and it limited the amount of people coming in and out of our community,” Smith said. “So as far as we can see, it’s going to be there until all of this is done.”

READ MORE: Efforts by B.C. First Nations to keep COVID-19 rates low are working, says health officials

Smith said the main concern was the safety of their elders, some of the most vulnerable members of their community. As well, these elders make up most of the remaining fluent Haisla speakers, something they very much want to protect.

“We do not have too many fluent Haisla speakers remaining in our community,” Smith said. “So, it was the thought process that we would do anything and everything to protect them for that part of our culture and our identity to remain, as we’re doing the work right now to try to save our language.”

Haisla Nation is currently is working on a Haisla language revitalization and preservation project, to try to make the language more accessible to Haisla members both inside and outside of Kitamaat Village.

READ MORE: New Haislakala Language Revitalization Program aims to preserve and revitalize Haisla language

Other First Nations communities are working on similar projects, which Smith said could be another reason other communities are choosing to keep their restricted access checkpoints up, as well, along with the safety aspect.

“While I can speak from a Haisla perspective around key intent of protection for our language, I can see that similar case within other certain communities,” Smith said. “But, for the most part, it is definitely for the safety of our members.”

Kitamaat Village has seen no cases of COVID-19 throughout the pandemic and Smith said they’d like to keep it that way going forward.

“The restricted access point isn’t meant to be, in any means or shape, a form of disrespect to those people that enjoy the views of our community, that support our local businesses,” Smith said. “The intent is not to penalize anybody, but the intent is to keep our community, our elders, and our most vulnerable people as safe as we possibly can by implementing measures that we are fortunate enough to be able to implement for our community.”

She also wanted to remind people to be respectful of the security workers at the checkpoint, who are doing that job for the safety of the community.

“Please remain respectful to our security workers. And that’s for…our members and for non-Haisla members,” Smith said. “Our security checkpoint is there doing their best and we need to remain respectful.”

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