Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller speaks with the media in the Foyer of the House of Commons before Question Period Tuesday March 10, 2020 in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)

Concerns raised over COVID-19 outbreak plans for Indigenous communities

Plans for possible outbreaks in remote, vulnerable Indigenous communities getting a failing grade

Ottawa’s plans to respond to possible COVID-19 outbreaks in remote, fly-in and already vulnerable Indigenous communities are getting a failing grade from Opposition politicians who say they display a troubling misunderstanding of the needs and conditions in these areas.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller told a legislative committee Thursday that Ottawa is preparing to help First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities if the coronavirus does begin to spread through a “surge capacity response” that would allow governments to scale up quickly as needed.

ALSO READ: B.C. First Nation chief urges caution in rural areas amid COVID-19

Miller says many remote Indigenous communities are at greater risk when it comes to COVID-19, due to overcrowded housing, food insecurity and poverty linked to poor health outcomes.

Many Indigenous communities also do not have local doctors or hospitals and must be flown to urban centres to be treated for serious conditions, which makes them additionally vulnerable.

He also says the federal government is ready to pay what it costs to bring in additional health workers and give Indigenous communities bottled water, protective equipment and hand sanitizer to help with prevention, and set up isolation tents if a lack of housing prevents self-isolating at home.

ALSO READ: Indigenous leaders to meet with premiers, Trudeau on child welfare, UNDRIP

NDP MP Niki Ashton says she believes this response is not taking First Nations realities seriously, stressing that treating sick people in Canada’s North in tents is not realistic.

Conservative Senator Dennis Patterson, who represents Nunavut, also scoffed at the idea of tents in the North at this time of year.

He also believes the $100 million that Ottawa has earmarked for COVID-19 response for First Nations and Inuit communities will not be enough.

So far, there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the North.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CoronavirusIndigenous peoples

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Visitor to Kamloops army club tests positive for COVID-19: Interior Health

The individual visited Anavets 290 Army and Navy Club between March 13 and March 17

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: B.C. patients pay more dispensing fees due to prescription limits

Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

A grateful community

Another community convoy to thank health care workers is planned for April 5

Forestry Ink: Introduced, not invasive species

Columnist Jim Hilton writes about animals that are considered invasive

‘Hold our line’: 29 new cases of COVID-19 announced in B.C.

Saturday’s number of new cases marks the lowest in weeks.

Two inmates found positive for COVID-19 at federal prison in B.C.; other tests pending

15 staff self-isolating waiting results, refusal to work notice sent, says correctional officer

Critic, workers’ group ‘disappointed’ Trudeau chose Amazon to distribute PPE

Amazon Canada said in an email to The Canadian Press that it is working with Canada Post, Purolator

How to cope with your mental health during a global pandemic

Becca Shears, clinical counsellor in Vanderhoof speaks about ways to deal with stress and anxiety during this time.

Full World COVID-19 update: National Guard collect ventilators in New York; Spain, Italy improve

Comprehensive coronavirus update with news from around the world.

Two people fined after B.C. police spot online ads re-selling 5,000 surgical, N95 masks

Police confiscated the masks, being sold at inflated prices, and now working with Fraser Health

Sex workers face new risks during COVID-19 pandemic

‘Desperation has kicked in’ for vulnerable, undocumented workers unable to access help

Unclear if Cowichan couple refusing to self-isolate will face penalty

No fines or charges have been laid to date, including Cowichan couple who won’t self isolate

Most Read