THUNDER BAY — The chief of Neskantaga First Nation wants exclusive use of a Thunder Bay hotel for his people until the community's water system is fixed.
Chris Moonias says the evacuees from Neskantaga are extremely worried by the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the city.
"Twenty-one new cases in Thunder Bay, Ontario today. This is scary for my people. I’ve asked for exclusivity for the hotel so I can lockdown and keep my people safe," Moonias tweeted on Tuesday.
More than 200 Neskantaga residents have been staying at the Victoria Inn on Arthur Street since they were airlifted to the city close to a month ago.
In an interview Wednesday, Moonias said he has sent a letter to Indigenous Services Canada, asking federal officials to arrange to have the hotel made solely available to people from Neskantaga.
He said he was told the request is under consideration.
"We want to create a bubble for safety...I've seen non-Neskantaga people in this hotel, people that I don't know. I've seen Manitoba and Quebec licence plates. That's worrisome for us."
The chief said residents of the First Nation have been careful to follow safety protocols during their stay in Thunder Bay, but some of them are "really scared" by the surge in COVID cases in the city.
He said it's got to the point that some have even suggested it might be safer to go back home before the water system is declared fixed.
Meantime, the target date for completing the repairs has changed several times. The latest date is Dec. 4.
Moonias said he has heard the the water "is running" again but that the people working on it have yet to do a 14-day stress test that's required before the system is considered safe and reliable.
A spokesperson for the Victoria Inn declined to comment.