No ‘dire situation’ as false ‘forced’ vaccine claims target Black Lake

No one is hiding or being “forced to the bush” for avoiding the COVID-19 vaccine shot — health authority.

The Black Lake Denesuline First Nation (Black Lake) and Athabasca Health Authority (AHA) are refuting false claims about the community being spread on social media by an Alberta anti-lockdown influencer.   

A video streamed by Patrick King on his “Real Pat King” Facebook page falsely claims Black Lake residents are hiding in the forest to escape a (non-existent) ‘forced’ vaccination campaign. 

King wrongly stated that Canadian military personnel are “chasing women and children into the bush” in Black Lake if they refuse to be vaccinated.

Black Lake, a remote community in the boreal forest of northern Saskatchewan with a population of around 2,255 people, released an urgent message on Monday warning about the video.

“A video posted on Facebook is making false claims that the First Nation is forcing residents to be vaccinated,” the First Nation said in a written statement.

The First Nation said leadership “strongly refute statements made in a careless Facebook video posted by The Real Pat King.”

King is associated with far right and anti-lockdown movements in Alberta. The post had around 130,000 views on Monday afternoon since appearing online Sunday evening. 

One of the speakers in King’s livestream states they are at the Edmonton Legislature. 

The first speaker claims women and children in Black Lake are being forced to take the “jab” — meaning vaccines to protect from COVID-19. 

She claims to have been speaking with someone in Black Lake, claiming women and children in the community are ‘running into the bush’ to hide from authorities who are forcing vaccines on them. 

A second speaker said her sister from Black Lake told her that she and her children are ‘hiding in the bush’ to avoid being forced to take the vaccine. 

Athabasca Health Authority senior management wrote in a letter that there is no ‘dire situation’ in Black Lake and that unvaccinated residents are not being forced from their homes. 

Chief Archie Robillard lost his life after testing positive with the virus this summer. As of Monday there were no active cases of COVID-19 in the far north central region, which includes Black Lake.

The health authority said it can confirm that “no one is hiding nor forced to the bush” for avoiding the COVID-19 vaccine shot. Residents take their shots voluntarily and uptake is increasing by the day.

Black Lake First Nation said it “strongly supports” the “personal choice and freedom to choose” to be vaccinated or remain unvaccinated and that “forced vaccination” is not a part of any COVID-19 strategy. 

“The Real Pat King failed to authenticate the portrayal of Black Lake First Nation, Saskatchewan vaccination efforts. These statements are not true,” the First Nation said.

“The video is not representative of the vaccination efforts in Black Lake First Nation.”

The First Nation said inquiries from the public about the video are exhausting staff resources and asked to please refrain from contacting the band about the false claims. 

King, who claims to be an “investigative journalist”  apologized later in the day for “putting something out there without vetting the information” in a follow-up Monday evening.

“I apologize to the chief. Sorry it caused such a big ruckus in your band.” 

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