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

News release

October 9, 2020 — Ottawa, Traditional Algonquin Territory, Ontario — Indigenous Services Canada

In the last few weeks, Indigenous communities have been facing an alarming rise in the number of new and active COVID-19 cases.

While the COVID-19 infection rate for First Nations living on-reserve remains one third the rate among other Canadians, in the last month alone, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) was made aware of more than 200 new cases in First Nations communities. Last week, 68 new cases were reported, which is the largest increase in cases we’ve seen since April. This recent increase in cases has been linked to private gatherings, as well as exposure to positive cases from outside of communities. First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities were successful in preventing, responding and stopping the spread of COVID-19 during the first wave of the pandemic. We know these times are challenging, but we must redouble our efforts and continue to follow the measures that saved many lives.
As of October 8, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is aware of these confirmed cases of COVID-19 for First Nations communities on reserve:

  • 778 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19
  • 129 active cases
  • 61 hospitalizations
  • 636 recovered cases
  • 13 deaths

There are a total of 22 confirmed positive cases in Nunavik, Quebec, and all but 3 have recovered.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, everyone has come together, made sacrifices, and done their part to help limit the spread of the virus. After many months of staying home, some may be experiencing pandemic fatigue. This can result in less vigilance when it comes to important practices, like limiting non-essential trips or maintaining physical distancing from those outside our social bubble. While these changes are hard, we must continue to be careful and listen to the advice of our public health experts. We cannot stop until we are all safe. We must remain vigilant. The threat of this virus is not yet behind us.

We recommend everyone familiarize themselves with the recommended public health guidelines outlined by their province or territory of residence, and/or by their community Leadership. We also encourage everyone to share the advice of public health experts, such as from the Public Health Agency of Canada, so that their friends and families are also well informed.

ISC will continue working with Indigenous leadership to flatten the COVID-19 curve in First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities as leaders are working to ensure their members have access to the most up-to-date public health information and services.

As announced on October 6, the Government of Canada has signed a new agreement with Abbott Rapid Diagnostics to purchase up to 20.5 million Panbio COVID-19 Antigen rapid tests. Health Canada has authorized this test for use in Canada. The Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 test kit, which is the size of a toaster, can provide results within 13 minutes. Testing can take place in a variety of locations, such as medical clinics and nursing stations. ISC is working to support access to point-of-care testing in First Nation communities. Since the spring, the Government of Canada has deployed 65 GeneXpert instruments to Indigenous communities, prioritizing those in rural, remote and isolated communities. These Health Canada approved tests provide rapid results in an hour; and to date, have provided over 15,000 results. We are collaborating with partners to ensure that nursing stations and health centres in First Nations communities continue to have the proper equipment and training to administer these tests.

It is important to underscore that COVID-19 can take up to 14 days after exposure to the virus for symptoms to appear. During this time, the virus can easily spread to others. This means that decisions made today affect families, friends and communities for weeks to come.

Because of these growing numbers linked to private gatherings, preventative measures that help stop the spread are of upmost importance.

When you choose to see people outside of your household, choose a small circle that your family will see regularly and who will also choose to see you regularly. When we consistently limit our contact to the same small circle, we keep our households, schools, and workplaces safer.

Remember to not let your guard down during this fall’s festivities. Celebrations this year will look different. Consider setting up a virtual get together with people outside of your household or make sure to proceed with caution when visiting in person by maintaining a safe distance, wearing a face covering, and bringing your own food. 

Additionally, it’s critical that we stay home if feeling sick. If you think you may have symptoms, there are COVID-19 self-assessment tools provided by your province or territory of residence that can help you determine if you need further assessment or testing.

The trend in new cases of COVID-19 we are seeing in Indigenous communities is similar to the one we are seeing in the general population; we urge everyone to help change the trend by making wise decisions, and following recommended public health measures. 

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 to support community-owned and micro-businesses through the Indigenous Community Business Fund. 

  • $16 million to support Indigenous tourism businesses through the COVID-19 Indigenous Tourism Stimulus Development Fund. 

  • $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. 

  • While provinces and territories have jurisdiction for education off-reserve, ISC supports First Nations control of First Nations education. ISC provides funding directly to First Nations and designated First Nations organizations to support elementary and secondary education for on-reserve students. 

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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