Few details on how feds plan to spend $100M to protect First Nation communities from COVID-19

The continuing response from Ottawa to the COVID-19 virus came fast and furious Friday.

It started with news that Parliament will be suspended until April 20.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Thursday, emerged from his self-quarantine to announce a multi-billion dollar stimulus package to help Canadians through the crisis.

“No one should have to worry about paying rent , buying groceries or additional child care because of COVID 19. We will help Canadians financially,” he said.

Ministers from the prime minister’s COVID-19 cabinet committee held their own press conference to discuss hygiene practices and travel restrictions.

Patty Hajdu, Canada’s health minister, reassured that she’d been in constant contact with her provincial and territorial conterparts.

“We will be there beside the provinces and territories every stop of the way. And I’m so pleased to see so many of them step up in innovative ways to make sure that we can continually screen our population, test people, make sure people have access to services as they need,” said Hajdu.

But neither Trudeau, nor the ministers had much to say on the fate of Indigenous communities.

Neither the minister of Indigenous Services, or Crown Indigenous Relations sit on the committee and were not present at the news conference.

Outside the legislature, Carolyn Bennett said she had been in contact with the Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler.

“He feels, that the health care leadership in communities is in daily conversation with the Public Health Agency, with First Nations Inuit Health Branch and I think that was very reassuring,” she said.

On Thursday, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said that $100 of a $100 million COVID-19 response fund was earmarked for Indigenous people.

Manitoba NDP MP Niki Ashton said that wasn’t enough.

“We’ve asked the Minister for more details about what that $100 million look like,” she said. “But what I heard right away from leaders on the ground, a hundred million to deal with a pandemic with First Nations that are already stretched is not going to go very far.”

Ashton also asked for the military to be on call to help remote and isolated First Nations in her northern Manitoba riding.

“I mean in the case of Island Lakes, 13,000 people in the span of two weeks will not have any road access,” she said. So how do you get a field hospital in there? How do you get modular housing? How do you get major quantities of potable water?

A phone call was schedule between Indigenous leaders and Trudeau late Friday afternoon.

Indigenous Services was also holding a conference call to discuss the response for Indigenous communities.


Executive Producer / Ottawa

Todd Lamirande is Red River Métis. Todd first joined APTN in 2000 as a writer - researcher. He went on to be a videojournalist based in Vancouver. Todd has hosted three programs for APTN News and Current Affairs: the national news, Investigates and Nation to Nation.

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1 thought on “Few details on how feds plan to spend $100M to protect First Nation communities from COVID-19

  1. Start Building individuals housing across Canada. And let the Health and well being of our First Nations people be priority especially our Grassroots people whom have minimal access to transportation in and out of their communities. Medivac and Mental Health Services are Mandatory and essential .

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