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Abstract & Bios

hisuk is cawaak (Everything is One) Working Together to Keep Our Communities Safe

During an outbreak of COVID-19, a collaborative response was undertaken by Nuchatlaht First Nation (NFN), Ehattesaht First Nation (EFN) and the Village of Zeballos to monitor COVID-19 cases and to provide supports within the communities for those self-isolating and recovering.  This was supported and facilitated through daily scheduled coordination calls by the Vancouver Island Region of the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA).  Communities (including the local school) provided updates and flagged issues and support requests to Island Health, Emergency Management BC, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council (Nursing Team), and Indigenous Services Canada.  In this process there was also a great deal of sharing of information (not working in silos) as well as resources (staffing, funding supports, isolation supports) throughout the response as well as vaccination roll-out within these communities.

muuʔisʔaqsup Darlene Smith is a member of ʔiihatis /čiinaxint Ehattesaht Chinehkint. Darlene has served her Nation since 1997 first in Finance and then in Management. Throughout the years their remote community has had to deal with many emergencies. So out of necessity she also takes on the role of EOC Director when disaster strikes. Her ability to cope with disaster comes from good teamwork with the local leadership and neighbouring communities, first hand experience, local knowledge, as well as training opportunities and coordination support of FNESS, JIBC and EMBC.

Sara Jansen is the band administrator of the Nuchatlaht Tribe and has a 12-year background in emergency management. Her experience includes six years as the Emergency Program Manager for the Township of Esquimalt, two years as Co-Chair of the Regional Emergency Planning Advisory Commission of the Capital Regional District (CRD), five years as the Regional Emergency Systems Coordinator at the CRD, and two and half years as a partner and emergency management consultant for Logic League Consulting. She deployed to assist communities and the Province during the 2017 and 2018 flood and wildfire response, and was also part of the organizing committee for the 2018 VIEP Conference. 


Melissa Aird is Saulteau First Nations and was raised on the traditional unceded territory of Tk' emlúps te Secwe̓pemc, also known as Kamloops, British Columbia. Melissa graduated in 2017 with her Aboriginal Studies Certificate and an Undergraduate Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with an Indigenous focus. In 2019 Melissa graduated with a Master’s Degree in Indigenous Governance from the University of Victoria. Melissa’s education, work in community, and daily practices are rooted in changing the way Indigenous peoples are viewed, respected and understood in the contemporary world and is achieved through fostering daily acts of resurgence and resilience and creating spaces through culture and governance systems to create self-determination within Indigenous communities. In 2020 Melissa joined the FNHA team as the Regional Manager of Health and Emergency Management and the Deputy Director of FNHA’s Regional Emergency Operations Center. Melissa, in her role with FNHA, has been supporting communities with access to FNHA COVID-19 funding, community coordination calls and supporting Nations in their COVID-19 responses throughout the pandemic.

Dr. Charmaine Enns is a Public Health and Preventive Medicine Specialist and has been the Medical Health Officer (MHO) for the North Island for the past 18 years.  For the pandemic response in Island Health, Charmaine and her MHO colleague Dr. Waters have had responsibility for COVID-19 management in rural and remote communities and Indigenous populations.   She emphasizes that it has been a privilege to be work in partnership with communities during this pandemic.

John Forrest is a Regional Manager in the Vancouver Island Region for Emergency Management BC (EMBC). John was hired in 2006 to carry heavy things up hills for BC Wildfire Service. He gave up the mountain views and helicopter rides to come work for EMBC in 2017. John now lives in beautiful Victoria with his wife, four years old son and his dog.

Tim McCann recently joined Indigenous Services Canada as the Regional Manager, Emergency Management. For Indigenous Services Canada.  Previously, Tim worked with the Canadian Coast Guard’s Environmental Response program where he was responsible for overseeing planning and preparedness activities as well as responding to marine incidents.  Tim has also worked with Transport Canada in a variety of operational, regulatory and compliance roles in the marine sector.   

Jeannette Watts has indigenous ancestry through her father from the Xax’lip Nation, Interior Salish, and is now married into the Tseshaht Nation, Coastal Salish. She received her Bachelor of Science (Nursing) from University of Oregon Health Services and a Masters in Public Health from the University of Hawaii School of Public Health.  Jeannette has worked as a Nurse Supervisor and then Nurse Manager at Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council since 1996. Prior to that she used her nursing skills and knowledge to assist NTC in developing programs and services when the health program was transferred to NTC and also provided clinical practice in treatment and prevention for many First Nations during her time with the Medical Services Branch of Health Canada. She has had valuable teachings from Aboriginal Elders on the value and importance of storytelling and its effectiveness as a teaching approach for expressing client needs, preferences, and priorities. She strives to ground her work and clinical practice in the values and needs of the Nuu-chah-nulth peoples, Health and Tribal Councils, to ensure that decisions are relevant to those most affected and that they are based on a variety of types of evidence (scientific, theoretical, cultural).

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