When the COVID-19 pandemic reached Canada, Thunderchild First Nation in northern Saskatchewan wanted to make sure they could keep the community safe.
One step they took was to establish a health security team to monitor and restrict traffic into the community.
The Turtleford RCMP detachment worked with the community, sharing the common goal of keeping everyone safe and healthy. As community leaders were preparing a pandemic response plan, officers met with them to learn about the plans and how the RCMP could help.
They advised that they had a pandemic response plan in place and wanted us to be informed," says Cpl. Dwight Sacrey, who works at the Turtleford detachment, which serves Thunderchild First Nation.
The community's council passed a bylaw restricting who could enter the community and implemented other protective measures, including the health security team, which set up at three community entrances.
The security team members asked questions about COVID-19 symptoms, checked temperatures and confirmed those entering the community live there.
We were looking for ways to educate the community and keep everyone safe," says Dwayne Noon, who was appointed pandemic response co-ordinator and worked with Juanita Graham, Director of Health for Thunderchild First Nation.
The health security teams also helped address other issues. When the teams spotted suspicious vehicles or possible impaired drivers, they reported it to police.
They helped keep the roads safe that way," says Sacrey. "
They would call us and we would intercept those vehicles and there were quite a few occasions where we found people who were driving impaired."
Officers frequently checked in with the security teams when on patrol to see if there were any concerns or if they needed any help.
Noon and Sacrey agree that communication has been pivotal to the program's success.
It was really positive having an open line of communication with the security teams," says Sacrey.
As some COVID-19 concerns have waned, the security teams are no longer monitoring who's entering the community, but billboard warning signs still stand and other restrictions and guidelines remain in place.
This was a unique way to address COVID-19, but the underlying key is the communication," says Noon.
Helping with the health security teams is only one way the RCMP works with Thunderchild First Nation. Officers visit the local school for educational presentations, maintain a strong relationship with community leaders and attend the annual Powwow in ceremonial Red Serge.