Government of Canada COVID-19 Update for Indigenous Peoples and communities

News release

September 4, 2020 — Ottawa, Traditional Algonquin Territory, Ontario — Indigenous Services Canada

As of September 3, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is aware of these confirmed cases of COVID-19 for First Nations on reserve:

  • 459 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19
  • 38 hospitalizations
  • 417 recovered cases

There are a total of 17 confirmed positive cases in Nunavik, Quebec, and all have recovered.

Unfortunately, multiple confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported in  Squamish, BC this week. We are closely monitoring the recent cases and will continue to work closely with the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) to ensure necessary supports are in place. Several community members have been tested and are awaiting results. At this time community members are to reach out to support teams via the FNHA for items such as medication and food. ISC stands ready to deploy additional surge capacity supports as needed.

When compared to the general Canadian population, the infection rate, hospitalization rate, and death rate were lower in First Nations communities on reserve. For example, the rate of COVID-19 reported among First Nations individuals  living on reserve is currently one-quarter the rate of the general Canadian population.

While data to make this comparison is currently only available for First Nations living on reserve, First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities have all taken many positive measures to protect their populations in the face of COVID-19 and have done a successful job in responding and preventing outbreaks.

In order to keep flattening the curve and the infection rate low, we must all remain vigilant in employing measures to protect ourselves, our families and our communities from the spread of COVID-19.

Individuals can help by:

  • avoiding all non-essential trips in the community;
  • limiting the size of group gatherings;
  • maintaining physical distancing of at least 2 arm-lengths (approximately 2 meters or 6 feet);
  • limiting contact with people at higher risk, such as seniors, those in poor health, or with underlying health conditions;
  • wearing a non-medical mask when physical distancing is not possible; and
  • following the recommended public health guidelines outlined by your province or territory of residence.

On August 26th, the Government of Canada announced $2 billion, through the Safe Return to Class Fund, in support for provinces and territories. As part of this announcement, an additional investment of $112 million is dedicated to support a safe return for elementary and secondary First Nations schools on reserves. Support is being provided to address operational and student needs, and assist schools with the necessary retrofits they need to follow public health guidelines and respect adequate physical distancing as school activities resume. For example, funding could include: salaries for teachers, custodians and bus drivers (who may work additional hours during this period), access to technology, purchase of e-learning software, the development of take-home learning materials, installation of Plexiglas separators and marking floors with physical distance indicators.  

On August 25th, the Government of Canada announced $82.5 million to be spent this year (2020-21) to help address urgent mental wellness needs in Indigenous communities related to COVID-19. The funding is to be allocated in distinctions-based envelopes to support First Nations, Inuit and Métis partners and communities as they adapt mental wellness services to better respond to the current COVID-19 context. ISC will work to support the culturally-safe adaptation of mental wellness services to the current COVID-19 context:

  • expanding access to culturally appropriate services such as on the land activities, community-based health supports, and mental wellness teams;
  • adapting mental health services to meet increasing demand (e.g., virtual counseling, crisis line surge capacity); and,
  • supporting Indigenous partners to develop innovative strategies to address substance use and improve access to treatment services.

Quick facts

  • Over $2.2 billion has been committed in specific support to Indigenous and northern communities and organizations.

  • $285.1 million to support the ongoing public health response to COVID-19 in Indigenous communities.

  • $685 million for the distinctions-based Indigenous Community Support Fund.

  • $10 million for emergency family violence prevention shelters on reserve and in Yukon to support women and children fleeing violence.

  • $72.6 million for health and social services support to the governments of Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.

  • $34.3 million for territorial businesses, through CanNor’s Regional Relief and Recovery Fund.

  • $25 million for enhancement to the Nutrition North Canada Subsidy.

  • $17.3 million in support for Northern Air Carriers.

  • $15 million for CanNor’s Northern Business Relief Fund.

  • Up to $306.8 million in interest-free loans to help small and medium-sized Indigenous businesses.

  • $75.2 million in 2020-21 in distinctions-based support for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation students pursuing post-secondary education.

  • $270 million to supplement the On-Reserve Income Assistance Program to address increased demand on the program, which will help individuals and families meet their essential living expenses.

  • $44.8 million over five years to build 12 new shelters, which will help protect and support Indigenous women and girls experiencing and fleeing violence. The Government of Canada will also provide $40.8 million to support operational costs for these new shelters over the first five years, and $10.2 million annually ongoing. Starting this year, $1 million a year ongoing will also be provided to support engagement with Métis leaders and service providers on shelter provision and community-led violence prevention projects for Métis women, girls, LGBTQ and two-spirited people.

  • $117 million in new funding to support community-owned Indigenous businesses and $16 million in new funding to support Indigenous tourism through the pandemic and into recovery.

  • $82.5 million in mental health and wellness supports to help Indigenous communities adapt and expand mental wellness services, improving access and addressing growing demand, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • $112 million to support a safe return to elementary and secondary schools for First Nations on reserves.

Associated links


For more information, media may contact:

Adrienne Vaupshas
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Marc Miller
Minister of Indigenous Services

Media Relations
Indigenous Services Canada

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