Additional $75 mil. in Covid-19 relief funds allocated to Off-Reserve Indigenous people

(ANNews) – On May 21, 2020 Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an extra $75 million dollars in funding for off-reserve organizations in order to support and help Indigenous people within urban areas.

This funding is supposed to go towards community-based projects that benefit and solve critical problems being faced by Indigenous people all across Canada.

Projects include food security, mental health services, and sanitation and protective equipment. Other needs involve Elder support, transportation, and education for Indigenous youth.

“COVID-19 is having unique impacts on First Nations, Inuit, and Métis across our country. For Indigenous peoples living off-reserve, in urban centres, or separated from their communities, it can be even more challenging to access the help they need. We are listening to Indigenous peoples and organizations, and providing them with support to respond to this crisis,” stated Prime Minister Trudeau.

This all is happening after the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) filed a legal challenge over the original amount.

On March 18, 2020 the Government of Canada announced $305 million for a new Indigenous Community Support Fund. This fund was created in order to address immediate needs in First Nations, and to help these Nations respond to the ever-growing threat of COVID-19.

Included in this original fund was $15 million dollars for Indigenous organizations that provide support and services to Indigenous people living off-reserve and in urban centres.

“Conservative MP Gary Vidal told the committee that, while more than half of Indigenous Peoples in Canada do not live on reserves, the organizations that serve them received only five per cent of the funds,” according to the Canada’s National Observer.

After the original funding plan was announced, the CAP legally challenged the “inadequate and discriminatory funding.”

In response to the new $75 million announcement, CAP National Chief Robert Bertrand stated, “This funding is an improvement over the previously announced funding that was beyond inadequate. As the National Chief I am glad to see some recognition from the federal government that they have an obligation to support the needs off-reserve Indigenous peoples.”

The National Chief also added, “It has always been CAP’s preference to work cooperatively with the federal government on these issues.  However, we are very proud that the Congress took a stand and went to court to address this inequitable funding.”

“It’s a good sign that the federal government is acknowledging what they’ve known for many decades now, which is that the majority of Indigenous peoples in Canada are off-reserve.  The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and our Provincial and Territorial Organizations provide critically needed support and deliver services to many of the most susceptible Canadians. The federal government had ignored its fiduciary responsibility towards a significant number of Indigenous peoples during this pandemic and we are fighting to address these needs,” concluded National Chief Robert Bertrand.

According to the Netnewsledger, “funding for projects will start rolling out in the coming weeks.”

Jake Cardinal is Local Initiatives Reporter for Alberta Native News.

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