Additional $650M in COVID-19 aid bound for Indigenous communities, Miller says

Federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says the federal government will spend another $650 million to help Indigenous communities cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of this, $285 million is new funding to support rapid public health responses in Indigenous communities when faced with an outbreak of the virus.

“We were able to put in place emergency contracts for more nurses and paramedics and nursing stations and health centers that can provide guidance on the appropriate measures to prevent the spread of the virus and act quickly if a community member is infected,” Miller said.

This money is in addition to $305 million previously promised to help First Nations reserves, and Inuit and Metis communities, with supplies, medical care and facilities that allow for physical distancing.

Miller says that although the first wave of COVID-19 appears to be receding, the threat of a second wave is very real and Indigenous communities will be just as vulnerable to it as they were to the first.

Miller also announced an increase in funding to the on-reserve income assistance program of $270 million to ensure the vulnerable families who rely on this program don’t have to choose between food and rent during the crisis.

“No one should have to choose between clothing their children or electricity for the next. No one should be faced with the choice between a roof above their heads or food for their family,” Miller said.

To address increased incidents of domestic violence against Indigenous women caused in part by governments urging Canadians to stay home, Miller announced Ottawa will spend $44.8 million over five years to build 10 shelters in First Nations communities and two in the territories to help women and children fleeing violence.

“I know everyone is concerned about the possibility of a second wave and we are acting. This funding makes available additional supports to communities on a needs basis for community driven responses to First Nations Inuit and Metis communities in the even tof an outbreak of COVID 19.”

With files from the Canadian Press

Reporter / Ottawa

Originally from the Cree Nation of Chisasibi on the eastern coast of James Bay, Quebec, Jamie has lived in Ottawa since 2015. Trained in journalism at Carleton University, he has worked as a freelance print journalist and as a writer/researcher for the Cree unit of CBC North out of Montreal. Jamie was hired as the reporter/correspondent for the Ottawa bureau in October 2019.