Ontario is clamping down in a bid to halt the spread of COVID-19. People in the province have been asked to stay home and avoid heading up to Ontario cottage country spots and now some areas are taking matters into their own hands. Hiawatha First Nation has erected checkpoint stops for out-of-towners entering or passing through that aim to stop people travelling from the GTA or elsewhere for seasonal trips.
According to The Toronto Star, people who have a property at or near Hiawatha on Rice Lake, just south of Peterborough, Ontario are not being allowed to drive through the reserve.
In fact, even drivers who would just be passing through on their way elsewhere are now being stopped and asked for proof of permanent residency in the First Nation site, per The Star.
This is part of an effort to limit the potential spread of COVID-19 to areas where resources are much more limited than bigger cities.
“In order to protect that community and the outline area, which includes our township, I’m hoping that our residents will be patient with this slight inconvenience and work with Hiawatha First Nation to make sure that this accomplishes exactly what it’s intended to do, and that’s to make it safer for everyone,” said Otonabee-South Monaghan Township Mayor Joe Taylor to The Star.
According to Global News, only residents, spouses, OSM residents, essential service deliveries, and emergency responders will be allowed to enter and leave Hiawatha. All other traffic will be sent back in the direction it came from.
"We are trying to do our role to keep this virus limited, and not coming into our community, hopefully,” Chief Laurie Carr told Global.
Checkpoints will have volunteers who ask those who drive through to provide their driver's license or a bill in order to prove that they live on the reserve.
Hiawatha is the second First Nations community to set up this kind of checkpoints, after Curve Lake, around 50 kilometres north of Hiawatha, near Peterborough.
Ontario's lake town residents have already begged people from out of town to not travel up north to the cottage area so they are able to preserve their resources.
However, with people still travelling as the spring warmth hits, the next step is the prohibition of such travel.
“We have a boat launch on Indian River in Keene. There were six vehicles at that boat launch. Based on the stickers that were on the vehicles from where they were sold, they were all from the Markham, Whitby, Scarborough area — all from the GTA,” Mayor Taylor revealed to The Star.
As Taylor noted, the GTA is Ontario's biggest COVID-19 hotspot. The boats gestured towards a disregard of preventative measures from their owners which put the community at risk.
“I was disappointed, frustrated and somewhat angry when I witnessed what I saw. And what I experienced, every other mayor in every other township around Rice Lake has also experienced."
Others, like the Township of Huron-Kinloss, are already feeling the impact as they continue to urge people not to come.