Petition calling on feds improve COVID-19 help for Indigenous communities reaches milestone

Author of petition doesn’t believe communities are ready for second wave of pandemic.

A petition launched by former Ontario chief Isadore Day in April and sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, several of his ministers and health advisors demanding that the government do more to help Indigenous communities deal with COVID-19 now has more than 50,000 signatures on it.

“First Nations, Inuit and Métis, are among the most vulnerable Canadians and the least equipped to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. During the H1N1 crisis, Indigenous people were 6.5 times more likely to be admitted to the ICU. Many Indigenous communities experience poverty, overcrowding, food and water insecurity, and lack adequate access to healthcare and there is a higher rate of chronic disease,” the petition starts.

“All of this increases risk of severe COVID-19.”

To date, Ottawa has spent $212 billion in direct COVID-19 aid to mainstream Canada but the petitioners said that money aimed at helping First Nation, Metis and Inuit communities has not kept up.

“This is simply unacceptable. While there have been additional investments made for Indigenous communities many Indigenous leaders and health organizations are calling for more assistance and supplies,” said the petition.

Read More: APTN News COVID-19

Ottawa has upped its game since the petition was filed by communicating with effected communities.

But Day is still asking whether communities now are prepared for a second wave.

“My question is are we prepared for that. Are we prepared for something in the magnitude of a Spanish Flu. I don’t think we are and which leads me to believe government still needs to work with us to make those things that are going to protect our communities.”

The petition is signed by Day, Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild, Tony Belcourt, founder of the Metis Nation of Ontario, Nishnawbe Aski Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, Dr. Anna Banerji, co-chair Indigenous Health Conference, David Suzuki and broadcaster Jesse Wente and others.

While Inuit communities have largely gone through the pandemic unscathed, First Nations in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan have been hard hit.

The petition is calling for the government to urgently enhance health care capacity in communities, enhanced testing and outbreak control, protection of travel restrictions into communities, and recognition of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Indigenous Services Canada sent APTN News a statement in response to the petition.

“To date, the Government of Canada has made roughly $1.7 billion in distinctions-based funding available to Indigenous Peoples to support their efforts to successfully battle COVID-19,” said Indigenous Services Canada spokesperson Adrienne Vaupshas.

“These funds provide Indigenous leadership with the flexibility needed to design and implement community-based solutions, and have been used for measures including, but not limited to: support for Elders and vulnerable community members, measures to address food insecurity, educational and other support for children, mental health assistance and emergency response services, preparedness measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

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.