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

News release

March 19, 2021 — Ottawa, Traditional unceded Algonquin Territory, Ontario — Indigenous Services Canada

Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is closely monitoring the number of COVID-19 cases reported in First Nations communities across the country. Overall, active case counts continue to decline, with 1,151 active cases reported as of March 18, 2021.

With the one year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic behind us, we look ahead with optimism and hope as vaccine roll-outs ramp up across the country. Even after being vaccinated, everyone must continue to follow public health measures, including minimizing in-person interactions with people from outside your immediate household, avoiding closed spaces and crowded places, wearing a mask, and washing your hands frequently.

In First Nations communities, as of March 18, ISC is aware of:

  • 23,589 confirmed positive COVID-19
  • 1,151 active cases
  • 22,172  recovered cases
  • 266 deaths

There is a total of 48 confirmed positive cases in Nunavik, Quebec, with only 6 of those being active. As of March 18, the Government of Nunavut is reporting 2 active cases in the Kivalliq Region, and a total of 395 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Of the 395 reported cases, 389 people have recovered from the virus.

As of March 17, 2021, more than 4.7 million COVID-19 vaccines have been distributed across the country. As of March 18, 2021, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is aware of  200,560 doses administered, and 586 communities with vaccinations underway (for either priority groups or all adults) in First Nations and Inuit communities in provinces and in territories. This represents 54 doses administered per 100 adults in First Nations and Inuit communities in provinces, and adult residents in the territories. This is over five times that of the overall Canadian adult population. In Saskatchewan for example, community-based vaccine clinics are underway in 82 First Nations in the province. Work is also underway to leverage non-traditional immunizers, such as dental therapists, pharmacists, dental hygienists, dietitians, etc. to support mass vaccination by complementing existing nursing workforce at the community level. In Alberta, clinics are wrapping up in the two fly in communities (Fox Lake and Fort Chip). These clinics focused on immunizing adults 18 years of age and older.

ISC is also continuing to support the vaccine roll out for Indigenous adults living in urban cities and towns across Canada. Vaccinations remain underway in a number of cities, including Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary and across cities in British Columbia. Others are being planned, including in Saskatoon, North Battleford, and Prince Albert.

Indigenous adults and communities are being prioritized for access to vaccines because they face higher risks for infection and serious illness, rooted in the history of colonialization and resulting systemic barriers, such as higher rates of chronic disease, reduced access to health care, and a lack of infrastructure (such as housing, water infrastructure, and medical services).

ISC also continues to support communities by providing Personal Protective Equipment, as well as point of care testing equipment (COVID-19 tests). As of March 5, 2021, ISC has provided close to 400 point of care testing equipment and more than 81,000 test cartridges to more than 180 sites in, nearby, or servicing Indigenous communities. With additional tests expected to arrive in the coming months, ISC is collaborating closely with communities, the National Microbiology Laboratory and provincial labs to provide testing capability to any remaining community that  has capacity to implement them, and to explore other possible uses to safe guard communities.

A number of federal partners, including the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), ISC and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, continue to work in collaboration with communities, provinces and territories in an effort to assess and respond to on-going community needs, and supports. The CAF are currently in Mathias Colomb Cree Nation in Manitoba to assist the community with their COVID-19 response. They have been working with other partners, including Canada Task Force 4, the Canadian Red Cross and Ambassadors from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. The surge support in the community is supporting the local Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) in the community, supporting public awareness on health measures in effect and COVID-19 vaccination programs, and providing other logistical and community support as needed.  ISC has a federal liaison officer in the community to help with the coordination.  Over the past two months, members of the Canadian Rangers have been present periodically in more than 25 communities across the Nishnawbe Aski Nation in northern Ontario, assisting provincial authorities with tasks related to immunization. This is in addition to the many First Nations communities that the CAF have supported in recent months with managing COVID-19 outbreaks and facilitating vaccine distribution.

In addition, ISC is working closely with Public Safety and the CAF along with First Nations partners and other service providers to expand on and accelerate the vaccine roll-out in First Nations communities in Manitoba. Several of these communities have been significantly impacted by COVID-19 outbreaks. That is why ISC, the CAF and partners will soon begin supporting vaccination programs in a number of remote/isolated on-reserve communities, as well as a select number of larger on-reserve Indigenous communities. The teams will provide support in a number of ways, including administering COVID-19 vaccines, providing logistical support, and coordinating the delivery of goods and supplies.

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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