MONTREAL -- There have now been two positive COVID-19 cases reported in Kahnawake, as both it and its sister community Kanesatake have ended all tobacco sales on the territories.


As of Tuesday morning, there were two positive COVID-19 cases reported in Kahnawake.

A doctor who works in the community tested positive Mar. 18, and Kahnawake COVID-19 Pandemic Task Force head Lloyd Phillips confirmed that another positive case was confirmed Tuesday morning, this time a community member.

The task force predicted that more cases would start to appear this week based on many travelling over spring break the first two weeks of March.

“Given the timeframe of incubation of the virus and people getting back a week-and-a-half ago from wherever abroad, now we’re seeing that more and more people are starting to test positive or develop symptoms,” said Phillips. “We predicted it, and we were correct, unfortunately.”

The task force was preparing for more positive cases, and working to inform the community that it was going to hit Kahnawake just like every other community in the province.

“The initial shock to the community, that it’s in the community, has had to be addressed,” said Phillips. “People have had to get over the shock that it’s in the community.”


Kanesatake and Kahnawake sent news releases Tuesday advising Quebecers not to enter their territory to purchase cigarettes, alcohol or other products.

“In an effort to encourage social distancing and protect Kanesatake’s population during the COVID-19 outbreak, no tobacco, cannabis or alcohol products will be sold on the territory until further notice,” read a news release signed by Mohawk Council of Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Otsi Simon Tuesday.

Kanesatake’s Council announced on Sunday that all stores would be closed as of Monday to curb the spread of COVID-19 adding that the community 45 minutes north of Montreal is considered “at risk” due to “a larger than normal proportion, if not most, of our members suffer from pre-existing conditions,” the release reads.

In Kahnawake, the task force asked all non-essential businesses to close on Sunday, and sent out a release Monday to local convenience stores directing owners to “sell only to Kahnawa’kehró:non (local residents), effective immediately,” according to a release.

Phillips said that after the cigarette stores on Highways 132 and 138 closed their doors, some non-local customers made their way into the village area to try and purchase tobacco products.

“We had to clarify that and ask the convenience store owners, if you’re going to sell tobacco, please sell it to locals only,” said Phillips. “Our whole goal is to minimize traffic inside the community… The businesses have been very cooperative. I think they all understand the gravity of the situation they were in.”

Many stores began closing doors and selling to locals only before the pandemic hit hard.

“There’s overwhelming understanding about what has to be done,” said Phillips, who added that the lines between Kahnawake and its neighbours have been open and everyone’s been sharing information as it comes in.


Phillips said the Kahnawake Peacekeepers have been patrolling the community ensuring members are respecting directives to remain indoors and not gather in groups, and the community as a whole has been on board with the directives.

Kahnawake’s members, Phillips said, are very vigilant to keep an eye on the community informing the task force or PKs if they see groups gathering or people acting inappropriately.

“There are a lot of people in the community who are acting as a community-type watchdog and it’s very helpful,” said Phillips. “It’s good to have that support from the community.”

The peacekeepers have not been called on to physically enforce any directives.

“Things are going as smoothly as they can and there have been no major issues that the peacekeepers have to deal with,” said Phillips. “The vast majority of the people are complying.”