The Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)

The Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)

B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

The Tsartlip First Nation expressed outrage this week after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact that the First Nation chose not to make public after witnessing the racism faced by the Cowichan Tribes after an outbreak there.

On March 2, Olsen, the representative for Saanich North and the Islands, shared on social media that the Tsartlip had been under shelter-in-place orders for several weeks and that all adults would be receiving a vaccine dose shortly. He added that as a member and resident of the nation, he too would be vaccinated on March 3.

READ ALSO: ‘Vile; filled with racism’: Officials condemn reaction to Cowichan First Nations COVID outbreak

In a public statement on Thursday, Chief Don Tom called Olsen’s announcement “highly offensive” and said the MLA had overstepped his role. He said the Tsartlip First Nation experienced an outbreak at the end of January and members were ordered to shelter-in-place starting Feb. 8. He said the last positive test was on Feb. 6 and that the nation currently has no active cases of COVID-19.

“Tsartlip has a right to self-determination, we cannot have an MLA misrepresenting our First Nation, and taking liberties to make public statements without consulting Tsartlip,” Tom said, adding that Olsen owed the community a public apology.

READ ALSO: BCAFN condems racism against Cowichan Tribes after COVID-19 outbreak

The same day, Olsen called Tom to offer his “unreserved apology” and shared an open letter on social media acknowledging it is not his role as an MLA to speak on behalf of the nation.

“I know these past weeks have been an incredibly difficult time for our community and I’m devastated that my actions have increased anxiety,” he wrote. “You have my commitment that this situation will not be repeated, and I fully accept your frustration and anger with my actions.”

READ ALSO: Adam Olsen declared winner in Saanich North and the Islands

Tom emphasized that the Tsartlip First Nation had specifically chosen to keep the outbreak private after witnessing the “cruel racism” members of the Cowichan Tribes experienced after an outbreak was declared in January. The Cowichan Tribes issued a stay-at-home order until Jan. 22 after more than 70 COVID-19 cases were reported.

According to Derek Thompson, Cowichan Tribes general manager, racism towards members of the First Nation increased immediately after the outbreak was disclosed.

“We chose to not subject Tsartlip members to this and kept our outbreak status private,” Tom said, noting that after Olsen revealed the situation, the First Nation was forced to address the outbreak publicly and clarify the situation. “Our membership now feel angst and worry for their social well-being.”

-With files from the Canadian Press


@devonscarlett
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

CoronavirusFirst NationsSaanich Peninsula

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The West Kelowna Warriors beat the Vernon Vipers 3-2 in BCHL action Friday, April 16, 2021. (Lisa Mazurek Photography)
West Kelowna goaltender stymies Vernon Vipers for 3-2 win

The Warriors were outshot 44-23 Friday night, but it didn’t bother Johnny Derrick

A group of youth in Kelowna's Knox Mountain Park are suspected as having violated the B.C. Wildlife Act by harassing a pair of nesting bald eagles with a drone Friday, April 16, 2021. (Conservation Officer Service photo)
Nesting bald eagles harassed by youth-piloted drone in Kelowna

Conservation Officers are hoping to hear from anyone who witnessed the Knox Mountain incident

Ben Klick is a country music singer living in Kelowna, B.C. (Contributed)
Kelowna’s Ben Klick partnering with local country music stations for annual virtual music festival fundraiser

The third annual Music Fest MS will come in the form of a Youtube livestream on May 30

The seventh annual Interior Savings Unplug and Play Family Literacy Week is scheduled for April 18 to 24. (File photo)
Annual Unplug and Play Week scheduled for April 18 to 24

Activities include making craft bags, neighbourhood hidden gems bingo, a scavenger hunt and more

A West Kelowna home was damaged in a fire that occurred overnight on Saturday, April 17. (Photo courtesy of West Kelowna Fire Rescue)
West Kelowna home damaged in overnight fire

The cause of the fire is undetermined and has been deemed unsuspicious

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a quick roundup of the stories that made headlines across the Okanagan, from April 11 to 16

Firefighters battled a burning home on farmland in the north end of Vernon Saturday, April 17, 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
UPDATE: Homeowner taken to hospital after Vernon home destroyed by fire

Firefighters engaged in a lengthy battle against the engulfed structure Saturday afternoon

Members of the Okanagan Screen Arts Society received a cheque for $1,500 Thursday, April 15, 2021. The funds are to help the society’s efforts as they prepare take over operation of the Vernon Towne Cinema at the end of July. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Okanagan dealership gives local cinema a lift

Vernon Watkin Motor Ford, in business for more than 100 years, donated to the theatre with nearly as long a history

Vernon Jubilee Hospital. (File photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared over in surgical unit of Vernon hospital

The outbreak affected four staff, 10 patients and led to three deaths in just over two weeks

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

Most Read