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

News release

May 5, 2021 — Ottawa, Traditional unceded Algonquin Territory, Ontario — Indigenous Services Canada

Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is committed to supporting Indigenous communities in their response to COVID-19 and is working closely with Indigenous organizations, and provincial and territorial governments.

This week is Mental Health Week in Canada, and the Canadian Mental Health Association’s theme is #GetReal about how you feel, which encourages people to name, express and deal with their emotions to help their mental health. The past year has been extremely difficult, and the Government of Canada is committed to supporting and promoting well-being for anyone struggling to cope with the added stress and anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why Indigenous Services Canada supports mental health and wellness in First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities by helping adapt and expand mental wellness services, and improving access to and addressing growing demand for these services in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Indigenous Community Support Fund also provides Indigenous leadership with the flexibility needed to design and implement community-based solutions to prevent, prepare and respond to the spread of COVID-19 within their communities. These funds can also be used to support mental wellness initiatives related to COVID-19. In Alberta, Sunchild First Nation has used funding from the Indigenous Community Support Fund to implement mental health supports in their community to help their members during this challenging time. The Hope for Wellness Help Line is also available and offers immediate mental health counselling and crisis intervention to all Indigenous Peoples across Canada, with services available in English, French, Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut.

While there are signs of hope as COVID-19 vaccines roll out across the country, we must also continue to follow public health measures to keep our loved ones, our communities and ourselves safe. This includes minimizing in-person interactions with people outside your immediate household, avoiding crowded places, wearing a mask and washing your hands frequently.

On First Nations communities, as of May 4, ISC is aware of

  • 27,564 confirmed positive COVID-19;
  • 732 active cases;
  • 26,513 recovered cases;
  • 319 deaths.

There is one active case in Nunavik, Quebec and 20 active cases in the Northwest Territories. As of May 4, the Government of Nunavut is reporting 85 active cases of COVID-19 in Iqaluit and Kinngait. Canada is committed to supporting Nunavut during these latest outbreaks. The Government of Canada is moving quickly to respond to requests from the Government of Nunavut and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated for personal protective equipment and health equipment, and support for isolation and food security.

As of May 3, 2021, more than 16.8 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been distributed across the country. As of May 4, 391,983 vaccine doses have been administered in 687 First Nations, Inuit and territorial communities. Based on Statistics Canada’s 2020 population projections, over 63% of adults in First Nations communities, as well as over 73% of adults living in the territories, have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

There are many examples of success across the country as vaccines continue to be rolled out. This week, the First Nations Health Authority in British Columbia is launching its campaign to administer second doses of COVID-19 vaccines in First Nations communities across the province. In addition, several Saskatchewan First Nations communities have reached 100% vaccine uptake in the 70+ age groups and continue to show high coverage in lower age groups.

While COVID-19 remains a serious threat, strong Indigenous leadership, public health measures and high vaccination rates have driven down the active cases in Indigenous communities, including in Alberta. In the province, as of May 4, over 56% of the population aged 18 and older living on reserve has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and over 25% have been fully vaccinated.

Many urban Indigenous vaccination clinics are also underway across the country, and as age eligibility continues to decrease, more Indigenous Peoples will have access to the vaccine. In Montréal, Quebec, ISC is deploying nurses to support the Indigenous urban vaccination clinic for the next two weeks. In Manitoba, several urban clinics are expected to open this week. The Manitoba government has partnered with five community organizations to establish new Indigenous-led COVID-19 immunization clinics. These clinics will provide culturally safe supports to people who might otherwise face barriers in accessing immunizations to help support vaccine confidence and ensure that these individuals are included in the immunization campaign.

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) also continue to assist vaccination teams with the accelerated pace of immunization in a number of on-reserve First Nations communities in Northern Manitoba. So far, the CAF has assisted 11 communities with the delivery of the first dose. Two weeks ago, the CAF, alongside community healthcare professionals, assisted with first-dose vaccination clinics and community outreach in Barren Lands First Nation, O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation and Northlands Denesuline First Nation. This week, the CAF will start assisting with second-dose clinics in Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation and Pauingassi First Nation. The CAF operations in the region are coordinated from a centralized hub in Thompson, Manitoba, which involves providing airlift support to the CAF medical and general support teams for the purpose of their movement and transporting equipment into and out of remote Northern Manitoba First Nations communities in support of this COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

Since late January 2021, the CAF has been assisting provincial vaccination authorities with tasks associated with vaccine administration in more than 25 communities of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation in Northern Ontario. Following last week’s CAF assistance to Wunnumin and Pikangikum First Nation with the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, CAF support to the Nishnawbe Aski Nation in Northern Ontario has successfully concluded.

In addition, in response to a request for assistance by the province of Ontario, six Canadian Rangers were activated in the community of Lac Seul First Nation on May 4, 2021, to provide assistance in dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak. The Rangers are working alongside Indigenous partners to provide humanitarian assistance and address the immediate needs of this remote community.

Associated links

Contacts

For more information, media may contact:

Adrienne Vaupshas
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Marc Miller
Minister of Indigenous Services
adrienne.vaupshas@canada.ca

Media Relations
Indigenous Services Canada
819-953-1160
SAC.media.ISC@canada.ca

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