By Jake Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(November 21, 2020) – The second wave of COVID has not been kind to Alberta or Saskatchewan First Nations. As of November 19, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is aware of 2,853 confirmed positive incidents of COVID-19 on First Nations, 1,174 active cases, and 25 deaths across Canada. First Nations in Alberta and Saskatchewan have the highest numbers of Indigenous people infected with COVID.
ISC’s regional breakdown is as follows:
- British Columbia: 205
- Alberta: 859
- Saskatchewan: 728
- Manitoba: 761
- Ontario: 174
- Quebec: 126
However, these numbers most likely do not represent the true amount of cases within First Nations as Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said that there is a lack of data.
“We’re currently looking at numbers that are close to four times the number of Indigenous people infected by COVID-19 during the first wave,” Miller told a news conference Friday, where he detailed $120 million in immediate funding for Indigenous communities suffering COVID-19 outbreaks in Saskatchewan and Alberta.
“This is serious.”
“Our data is limited, and so this only represents cases on reserve,” he said, adding the number of COVID-19 cases among Indigenous people in both provinces is much higher.
The Minister mentioned that Indigenous people living in urban areas within Manitoba were reported to have had showed high rates of COVID, as well as a disproportionate number of First Nations individuals in hospital and intensive-care units.
That “imperfect picture” of COVID-19 infections is a problem, he said.
“It’s a reality that we struggle with because it’s very hard to tailor those options in order to keep people safe,” he said.
$120.37 million support-funding in question will be split between the Nations within Alberta and Saskatchewan, with Saskatchewan receiving $68 million in funding while Alberta will receive over $52 million. This money is being given in order to help the Nations that are in desperate need of assistance.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, including today’s announcement, the Government of Canada has provided over $247 million to First Nations in Alberta and over $357 million to First Nations in Saskatchewan to support their response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the Federal Government on their website.
Miller also stated that, “The health and safety of Indigenous Peoples and communities is our shared and highest priority. In the last week, I’ve spoken almost daily with First Nations leadership in Alberta and Saskatchewan and they’ve been specific about what is required to protect their members and communities.
“Hearing from them has been critical in understanding what support is required to make an immediate and meaningful difference for Indigenous Peoples in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Our support today is a direct response to their requests and will be critical to containing the concerning spread of the virus,” said the Indigenous Services Minister.
Chief Ouray Crowfoot of the Siksika Nation spoke of the funding announcement in an interview in which he says the money will go towards “our shelter, our elders’ lodge, homeless shelter, and it’s also going towards helping our front line staff… As you’re fighting these pandemics, resources and funding is very, very critical. Those funds are going to go a long ways to fight this virus.”
When asked about what Siksika’s biggest challenge is regarding COVID, Chief Crowfoot mentioned infrastructure, “There’s your basic human needs, your food, shelter, clothing, security and we don’t have a police force in Canada.”
Indigenous Services Canada is providing Alberta and Saskatchewan First Nations with COVID-19 testing swabs, PPE such as hand sanitizer, masks, gowns, gloves and other infection prevention and control items. As of November 17, 2020, a total of 106 shipments of PPE have been sent to Alberta and 122 shipments to Saskatchewan.
Stay safe and Creator Bless!