Almost five months into the Covid-19 pandemic, waiting for the second wave to hit feels like we’re collectively in limbo. Just going grocery shopping in Chibougamau has the aura of an epic adventure. I have not worn anything besides sweatpants for the past three weeks. This year is going to be a tough one to process. The good news is that Covid-19 did not, so far, spread through our communities.
Quebec encouraged the population to spend their summer vacations within the province to limit the spread of Covid-19 and to stimulate the economy. The past few months have been particularly rough for small and medium-sized businesses and pressure was put on the government to deconfine faster for economic reasons.
These decisions were made without concrete guidelines. This puzzled the tourism industry, which is seeing a higher demand than usual.
That’s totally understandable: on one hand, you don’t want your business to be impacted by the pandemic. On the other, you don’t want to see a spike in cases in your region.
The concern was the same here in Eeyou Istchee. I’ve seen a lot of people concerned about tourists coming from hot spots to nearby towns where we get our necessities. “We are not allowed to go to the hot spots, but what is preventing the hot spots from coming to us?”
So far, so good. No big outbreaks because of tourism yet, even if employees in hotels and tourist information offices in the Gaspé claimed that a lot of people coming from large urban centres were not respecting local guidelines for Covid-19.
People raised another concern: littering. Many folks complained that campers were not picking up their trash on beaches and campsites (both authorized and unauthorized).
Melissa Mollen-Dupuis, an Innu from Ekuanitshit, said something spot on about this. “As we see in the Gaspé right now, there is a lack of awareness and responsibility to protect the territory, which is innate for communities that are interdependent with it. The territory is seen as a service.”
If the pandemic lasts longer than expected (some experts predict another two years), this is something we should think of. It always amazes me – in a bad way – how people are still careless about how they dispose of their trash.
Confinement has been hard on everyone. I know that most of our measures will be in place until they find a vaccine. Until then, we all should respect the guidelines given by our entities and leadership. Recommendation: Support your local artists and buy your masks from them!