Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller speaks with the media in the Foyer of the House of Commons before Question Period Tuesday March 10, 2020 in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)

Concerns raised over COVID-19 outbreak plans for Indigenous communities

Plans for possible outbreaks in remote, vulnerable Indigenous communities getting a failing grade

Ottawa’s plans to respond to possible COVID-19 outbreaks in remote, fly-in and already vulnerable Indigenous communities are getting a failing grade from Opposition politicians who say they display a troubling misunderstanding of the needs and conditions in these areas.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller told a legislative committee Thursday that Ottawa is preparing to help First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities if the coronavirus does begin to spread through a “surge capacity response” that would allow governments to scale up quickly as needed.

ALSO READ: B.C. First Nation chief urges caution in rural areas amid COVID-19

Miller says many remote Indigenous communities are at greater risk when it comes to COVID-19, due to overcrowded housing, food insecurity and poverty linked to poor health outcomes.

Many Indigenous communities also do not have local doctors or hospitals and must be flown to urban centres to be treated for serious conditions, which makes them additionally vulnerable.

He also says the federal government is ready to pay what it costs to bring in additional health workers and give Indigenous communities bottled water, protective equipment and hand sanitizer to help with prevention, and set up isolation tents if a lack of housing prevents self-isolating at home.

ALSO READ: Indigenous leaders to meet with premiers, Trudeau on child welfare, UNDRIP

NDP MP Niki Ashton says she believes this response is not taking First Nations realities seriously, stressing that treating sick people in Canada’s North in tents is not realistic.

Conservative Senator Dennis Patterson, who represents Nunavut, also scoffed at the idea of tents in the North at this time of year.

He also believes the $100 million that Ottawa has earmarked for COVID-19 response for First Nations and Inuit communities will not be enough.

So far, there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the North.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CoronavirusIndigenous peoples

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Non-profits that are helping people impacted by COVID-19 can apply for relief funding

Red Deer and District FCSS can draw from a provincial pot of $30 million

No Alberta renter will be evicted for non-payment on April 1, promises the premier

No evictions during the entire Alberta public health emergency

Opening Red Deer’s safe consumption site would reduce strain on system during COVID-19, says advocate

Alberta should give also give addicts clean drugs, added Deborah Watson

Sylvan Lake product named SCAHL’s Best Goaltender

West Central Bantam AA Tigers’ Spencer Michnik received the coach-voted award for the 2019-20 season

A message from the publisher

Consider a voluntary subscription to Sylvan Lake News

COVID-19 world update: Enforceable quarantine in NYC?; France orders 1 billion masks

Spain warns EU’s future at stake; New York governor calls Trump’s idea ‘federal declaration of war

Families urge action to get Canadians home from cruise ship stuck off Panama

1,243 passengers and 586 crew on board and more tests are being done every day

Canada could face legal trouble over refugee deportations: advocates

Deputy Prime Minister Freeland holding ‘urgent’ discussions with U.S. officials

Regions brace to fight rising flood waters and cases of COVID-19

Pontiac is one of dozens of flood-prone regions bracing for the possibility of rising waters

Feds working to get 248 Canadians stranded on COVID-19-infected cruise ship home

The federal government is working with the Panamanian government and Holland America

Most Read