Ottawa, Traditional unceded Algonquin Territory, Ontario – Indigenous Services Canada
First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities across Canada are continuing their efforts in responding to COVID-19, with support from Indigenous Services Canada (ISC).
As the number of active outbreaks and active cases are hopefully reaching their peak, we will continue to work with Indigenous communities to slow the spread of COVID-19 and work towards recovery.
As of January 25, 2022, over 86% of individuals aged 12 and older in First Nations, Inuit and territorial communities have received a second dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine. With the recent approval of pediatric vaccines, over 43% of individuals aged 5 to 11 have received at least one dose.
First Nations, Inuit and Métis have access to vaccines. Vaccine clinics are well underway in Indigenous communities across the country. Now is the time to get your vaccine. Protect your community, your Elders and your family.
In the event that First Nations peoples and Inuit need to travel out of their community to get to their vaccination appointment, the applicable travel costs will be covered by non-insured health benefits.
As of January 26, 2022, the following case counts has been reported from First Nations communities:
- 70,482 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases, of which 6,851 are the Omicron variant
- 5,509 active cases
- 2,585 hospitalizations
- 64,374 recovered cases
- 599 deaths
This past week, there is an 0.8% (41 cases) increase in the average daily active case counts from the week before (January 20, 2022).
Community responses to COVID-19 and ISC support
Below are just a few examples of ISC’s efforts to support Indigenous communities’ COVID-19 emergency preparedness and recovery.
COVID-19 vaccine confidence app by Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, in partnership with ISC, is addressing COVID-19 vaccine confidence by establishing the “Talking Stick” app for First Nations communities in Saskatchewan.
Talking Stick is an innovative, Indigenous-led app that provides a digital platform for First Nations peoples to ask questions and share their concerns, fears, and emotions about COVID-19. Talking Stick will have a network of Indigenous leaders, including Elders, Knowledge Keepers, youth ambassadors, and trusted community members, to facilitate discussion, inspire trust, and provide health resources to those seeking help for COVID-19.
Indigenous leadership is in the best position to address vaccine hesitancy in their communities. The government supports Indigenous-led, targeted, community-based efforts to encourage vaccine confidence, as this approach is the most effective at reaching Indigenous peoples and protecting communities from COVID-19.
The application is launching in March 2022 and is another example of Indigenous-led community efforts to respond to COVID-19.
Windspeaker Radio – Mental wellness town halls
In Alberta, ISC supports a pandemic mental wellness town hall series that airs on Windspeaker Radio and is reposted online. The radio shows feature advice from medical officers of health and mental health support workers, guidance from Elders and Indigenous leadership, and personal experiences from youth. The fourth mental wellness town hall aired yesterday, January 26, 2022. Three more town halls are scheduled, with the final town hall taking place in March.
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs’ Ambassadors Initiative
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC), in partnership with ISC, has established the Ambassadors Initiative. AMC Ambassadors provide immediate resource support to First Nations communities responding to COVID-19 outbreaks. Ambassador positions are held by Indigenous peoples from across Manitoba and deployed to communities at the request of First Nations.
To date, the Ambassadors, of which there are typically 8 to 10 per team, have provided important on-the-ground support in more than 12 communities in support of their COVID-19 response. Ambassador support includes assistance during the initial reconnaissance and evaluation of needs, food delivery to those in isolation, perimeter security, wood cutting and delivery, and wellness checks.
As of December 31, 2021, ISC has provided $2,754,180 to AMC through the Indigenous Community Support Fund to support this initiative.
Mobile vaccine clinics and community-based approaches to improve vaccine confidence, Six Nations of the Grand River
Many First Nations are finding innovative ways to increase vaccination rates and limit the spread of COVID-19 in their communities. Six Nations of the Grand River is using a bus as a mobile vaccination clinic to make it easier for members to be vaccinated where they live.
The community has also organized drive-through events to distribute rapid antigen tests, held call-in radio shows with medical experts, and launched Face Mask Fridays; giving free masks to anyone who wants one. Six Nations of the Grand River has also leveraged the voices of its community members to inspire others, recording podcast episodes featuring people who were hesitant to receive the COVID-19 vaccine about why they ultimately chose to be vaccinated.
Six Nations of the Grand River is an example of the creativity and dedication of many First Nations communities in the fight against COVID-19.
Helping Indigenous communities offset revenue loss
ISC continues to focus on economic recovery in Indigenous communities.
The Own-Source Revenue in Indigenous Communities Initiative was launched in June 2021 to help offset declines in own-source revenues so that First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities can continue to provide core community programs and important services to their members.
Own-source revenue is defined as money communities collect from business ventures, property taxes or other activities, including commercial leasing and tax revenues.
Like many First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities across the country, Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick experienced a significant decline in own-source revenues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, the community’s income from their fisheries operations were impacted dramatically. They have been able to use funds from the Own-Source Revenue in Indigenous Communities Initiative to continue to support their education, health and housing programming, among other important community services.
Through this program, more than $39 million in funding has been delivered to 21 First Nations in Atlantic Canada.
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 for 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 cover their essential living expenses, as well as providing increased administration support to the communities. Individuals interested in applying 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.