Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on June 21, 2021


June 21, 2021 | Ottawa, ON | Public Health Agency of Canada

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected individuals, families, and communities in many ways. Today, on National Indigenous Peoples Day, it is important that we acknowledge the inequitable impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Indigenous peoples across the country. Indigenous communities were some of the hardest hit. The challenges experienced by Indigenous peoples of Canada, such as barriers to accessing quality care, have been exacerbated during the pandemic. As well, COVID-19 infection rates have disproportionately affected Indigenous peoples—as of June 1, 2021, the rate of reported active cases of COVID-19 in First Nations people living on a reserve was 188% higher than the rate for the general Canadian population. In addition, Indigenous groups screened positive at a rate two times higher than non-Indigenous groups for anxiety and depression.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has been working closely with Indigenous leadership and voices throughout the pandemic. The Immunization Partnership Fund and the Vaccine Community Innovation Challenge have increased knowledge and provided access to COVID-19 vaccinations to Indigenous peoples in regions across the country, no matter where they live. In collaboration with provinces and territories, First Nations, Inuit and Métis partners, the National Association of Friendship Centres and other urban community service organizations, the Government of Canada continues to work hard to ensure that Indigenous peoples have the support they need to respond to the pandemic. This includes identifying challenges and opportunities to increase vaccination, including by making vaccines available in locations that are welcoming and accessible to Indigenous peoples, such as through mobile clinics in Indigenous communities.

Throughout the pandemic, numerous Indigenous leaders, from youth to Elders, have risen to the challenge to connect with communities and provide accurate vaccine information in meaningful, creative and culturally appropriate ways. I’m happy to report that as of June 18, 2021 over 76% of individuals aged 12 years or older in First Nations, Inuit and Territorial communities have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, and over 47% have received two doses. I would also like to highlight the tremendous vaccination achievements of Indigenous leadership off-reserve with Indigenous-specific efforts for vaccination clinics happening across the country in cities such as Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and many more. 

Despite these successes, the seriousness of COVID-19 continues. I invite Canadians to honour this year's National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day at home. Thank you for continuing to keep yourselves, your families and your communities safe by following public health guidelines from health officials and other trusted, reliable sources. The recent discovery of children’s remains at the former Kamloops Residential School in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, British Columbia has sparked difficult conversations around the legacy of these schools, and led many non-Indigenous people to dig deeper into Canada’s history. Today, we remember these children, and all Indigenous children, who never made it home. We also acknowledge the survivors, their families and those who continue to live with the enduring and intergenerational trauma of the residential school system. 

If you are a former residential school student, the Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program is available to provide mental health, emotional and cultural support services. You can find information on the Indigenous Services Canada website or access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour National Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419. To learn more about how you can acknowledge and commemorate the Indigenous heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, please visit the Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada website.

As well, the Hope for Wellness Help Line (1-855-242-3310) offers immediate mental health counselling and crisis intervention to all Indigenous Peoples, including an on-Line Chat Counseling Service at If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 9-1-1 or your local emergency help line. You can also get support from a local crisis centre, @CrisisCanada (1-833-456-4566), 1 866 APPELLE (Quebec residents), @KidsHelpPhone or by visiting

As Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, I remain committed to advancing reconciliation and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action related to public health. Going forward from COVID-19 and working on other critical public health issues, it will be important that we collectively advance a public health system that purposefully engages First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples and reflects the insights from Indigenous traditions, practices and ways of knowing. Merci, Thank you, Miigwetch, Marsi, Nakumik, ay-hay, niá:wen, wela'lin, huy chexw, marsi tchogh.


Media Relations
Public Health Agency of Canada

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