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 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 offer COVID-19 vaccinations to Indigenous Peoples.
As of January 19, 2022, over 85 per cent 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 40 per cent 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 19, 2022, the following has been reported from First Nations communities:
- 66,076 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases, of which 4898 cases are the Omicron variant
- 5,097 active cases
- 2,544 hospitalizations
- 59,389 recovered cases
- 588 deaths
There is a decrease of 1.2% in active cases count from what was a week ago.
Additional COVID-19 Public Health Funding
As COVID-19 case numbers increase fuelled by the surge of the Omicron variant, the department has heard from First Nations Chiefs that their communities require enhanced ease of access to funding to support community-led pandemic response activities. In response, Minister Patty Hajdu announced today that Indigenous Services Canada is distributing a total amount of $125 million amongst First Nations across the country to support their public health efforts.
Below are recent updates outlining just a few examples of ISC’s efforts to support Indigenous communities.
Attawapiskat First Nation, Ontario
A formal Request for Federal Assistance (RFA) was submitted by the Province of Ontario on behalf of Attawapiskat First Nation which is currently in a State of Emergency. This RFA was received and approved by Public Safety Canada on January 14, 2022. The Canadian Armed Forces’ Task Force Central is assisting with the community’s COVID-19 response by activating Canadian Rangers in the community to help with the delivery of food and water, woodcutting and providing transportation.
ISC is actively working with partners including community leadership, Mushkegowuk Council, Matawa Tribal Council, the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority, the Non-Governmental Organization Alliance, the Canadian Red Cross, the Province of Ontario, and the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service to ensure that Attawapiskat receives all necessary support to manage current COVID-19 cases and to reduce the chances of further spread. This includes assessing community needs and facilitating supports to assist with the current outbreak.
Bearskin Lake First Nation, Ontario
ISC continues to work closely with Bearskin Lake First Nation leadership, Windigo First Nations Tribal Council, the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority, the Province of Ontario and the local public health unit, and various federal departments to ensure the community has the supports it needs.
Thanks to community leadership and coordinated partner supports, cases are declining and the situation is moving in the right direction.
Kashechewan First Nation, Ontario
ISC commends Kashechewan First Nation Chief Gaius Wesley for acting quickly after two cases of COVID-19 were detected in the community. Thanks to Chief Wesley’s leadership and community members’ swift actions, Kashechewan is no longer in an outbreak situation.
Cross Lake First Nation, Manitoba
COVID-19 cases in Cross Lake First Nation are rising due to both Delta and Omicron-presumptive outbreaks. ISC is working directly with all partners and the community to provide supports. $4.38 million in new funding was approved for temporary isolation accommodations, and will enable Cross Lake’s pandemic response team to include the purchase, delivery, installation and furnishing of 16 Ready-to-Move (RTM) structures, which will add 64 isolation beds to the Alternate Isolation Accommodation (AIA) element in their pandemic plan. While this is temporary infrastructure is assisting the community’s response to COVID-19, Indigenous Services Canada recognizes that house needs for First Nations on reserves continue to be significant and longstanding.
Community supports in Alberta
The number of active COVID-19 cases in First Nations in Alberta continues to rise. As of January 18, there are 1219 cases in 38 communities. Although case numbers are increasing, hospitalizations at this time remain low.
Canadian Red Cross staff are assisting ISC and First Nations health staff in the Alberta region with COVID-19 vaccinations and testing.
Community based rapid molecular point of care testing continues to be available to First Nations in Alberta. Presently, there are 55 rapid molecular point of care test units in communities across Alberta to process tests.
Supports Currently Available to First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities
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 community band office or the 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.