A former MLA and past Behchokǫ̀ chief is fighting for his life in an Edmonton hospital after contracting Covid-19.

Leon Lafferty tested positive for Covid on Jan. 11. After developing chest pains and difficulty breathing over the next few days, he was medevaced to Edmonton on Jan. 16.

At first, his condition improved.

“The day before he got medevaced, he was actually sitting up in a chair in his room showing videos from his tablet to one of the nurses,” said Tommy Lafferty, his son. “And then all of a sudden everything went down.”

His condition worsened after developing a blood clot in his lung. He was sent to Misericordia Community Hospital in Edmonton on Jan. 28, where he was put on life support, where he remains as of Feb. 1.

“He’s taking little steps of improvement — like very, very tiny steps of improvement,” Tommy said.

Although he said hospital staff have expressed optimism about some recent changes in Leon’s health, they caution that he remains critical condition.

“We’re told he’s going to be here for at least at least a few weeks,” said Tommy.

Leon has been a prominent figure in NWT politics for decades, serving first as the MLA for North Slave (later Monfwi) from 1999 to 2003, and then as Behchokǫ̀ chief from 2005 to 2009. Following news of his plight, there was an outpouring of support from family and the community. A family friend is hosting an online raffle where proceeds will go to the Laffertys. Tommy said the family may start a GoFundMe as well.

Tłı̨chǫ Grand Chief Jackson Lafferty said the local government tries to support all of its community members fighting Covid-19 in hospitals in Yellowknife or Alberta.

For families that have to drive to Yellowknife, the government helps to cover the cost of gas. For those who are isolating at home, the Tlicho government also provides care packages containing food, soap, detergent and other essentials.

“Something they can get by on, because most of the time they can’t go out,” said Lafferty, a former MLA for Monfwi and Leon’s cousin.

For Leon’s family, and others who have to travel for medical care, Jackson Lafferty said the government helps cover the cost of travel and accommodations.

“They’re really struggling right now, and our thoughts and prayers are with them,” he said of Leon and his relatives.

To all community members who are battling Covid, the grand chief said: “We’re hoping and praying that they come back to our community soon.”

Tommy said community members can support the family by reaching out directly on social media, or through his cellphone at (867)-446-2425.

Also, “if anybody has caribou meat, they want to donate to us that we can cook, that would be great,” he added.

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