Ottawa, Traditional unceded Algonquin Territory, Ontario – Indigenous Services Canada
In response to the significant risks and uncertainties presented by the spread of the Omicron variant in Canada, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) continues to support to Indigenous communities in their response to COVID-19.
Vaccination is one of the most effective ways to prevent severe COVID-19 infections. ISC regions and Indigenous communities across the country are working together to promote and administer COVID-19 vaccinations to Indigenous Peoples.
As of January 11th, 2022, over 84% of individuals aged 12+ and over in First Nation, Inuit and territorial communities have received a second dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine. With the recent approval of pediatric vaccines, over 35% of individuals aged 5-11 have received at lease one dose.
The Department urges everyone to get vaccinated as soon as they are able to. In the event that First Nations and Inuit individuals need to travel out of their community to get to their vaccination appointment, the travel will be covered by non-insured health benefits.
As of January 12, 2022, the following has been reported from First Nations communities:
- 60,703 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases, of which 1,236 cases are the Omicron variant
- 5,160 active cases
- 2,514 hospitalizations
- 54,968 recovered cases
- 575 deaths
There is an increase of 52% in active case counts from one week ago.
Since March 2020, over 602,890 rapid tests have been provided to Indigenous communities and service centres to provide an extra layer of defence against the virus. The Department is securing an additional 2.5 million rapid antigen tests and is distributing them to support communities and service centres.
In Ontario, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is working closely with Bearskin Lake First Nation leadership, Windigo First Nations Tribal Council, the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority (SLFNHA), the Province of Ontario and the local public health unit, and federal departments including the Canadian Armed Forces and Public Safety Canada, to ensure continued support for the community as they respond to their Covid-19 outbreak. Canadian Rangers have been authorized by the Canadian Armed Forces to deploy to Bearskin Lake First Nation. This is in addition to ISC’s support of PPE and other prevention supplies; transportation; wages for community-based workers; airport, winter road and community perimeter security personnel and associated costs; community security; and for the safe transportation by air of volunteers and paid service providers. The ISC-funded Nishnawbe Aski Nation Mental Health Wellness Support Access Program (NAN Hope) is available for Bearskin Lake First Nation community members. It provides community-driven, culturally appropriate and timely mental health and addictions support to members of the 49 First Nations communities in the Nishnawbe Aski Nation Territory.
In addition, in response to Omicron-driven States of Emergency declared in three communities – Aroland First Nation, Bearskin Lake First Nation and Ginoogaming First Nation – ISC has approved a combined total of over $1.3 million in needs-based funding since December 1, 2021. ISC also continues to work with Attawapiskat First Nation leadership in collaboration with federal, provincial, and health partners to support community needs.
In December, ISC approved $1.128 million in funding to the Saskatoon Tribal Council to support mental health clinicians and clinical coordination support, PPE, transportation, food security and food delivery to ensure Indigenous peoples accessing safe shelter in Saskatoon are supported during this pandemic. STC is working in partnership with the city of Saskatoon and other provincial and non-government partners to establish a temporary emergency Wellness Center initiative in response to the surge of homelessness compounded by Covid-19 and the cold weather.
In Alberta, ISC continues to provide surge support to First Nations, upon request, as part of the response the Omicron variant, including for testing and contact tracing and immunization.
These are just a few examples of ISC’s efforts to support Indigenous communities that have successfully developed and adapted their own strategies to keep their communities safe, including shutting borders, providing isolation and testing capacity, as well as perimeter safety to greatly reduce the spread of Covid-19.
Supports Currently Available
Across the country ISC Regional Offices and Regional Medical Officers of Health remain available to assist First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities and organizations should they require immediate assistance with an outbreak, or supports such as temporary infrastructure, rapid testing or PPE.
Indigenous communities and organizations can also continue to request needs-based funding from the Indigenous Community Support Fund. This fund provides Indigenous leadership and organizations with the flexibility needed to design and implement community-based solutions to prevent, prepare and respond to the spread of COVID-19 within their communities.
These funds can be used for measures including, but not limited to:
- support for Elders and vulnerable community members
- measures to address food insecurity, such as support for the purchase, transportation and distribution of food; and traditional foods such as hunting and fishing
- educational and other support for children
- mental health assistance and emergency response services
- preparedness measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In addition, as of this month, the Government of Canada is providing additional funding to help First Nations individuals and families who rely on income assistance to cover their essential living expenses as well as increased administration support to the communities. Individuals wishing to apply can contact their communities band office or Yukon regional office for more details.
ISC continues to work with Indigenous communities to collaborate, share information and co-develop Indigenous-led, distinctions-based communications and health response approaches with Indigenous partners, listening to their advice and guidance.