Government of Canada COVID-19 Update for Indigenous Peoples and communities

OTTAWA, Dec 18, 2020:: Ottawa, Traditional unceded Algonquin Territory, Ontario — Indigenous Services Canada. The weeks of December 6-12 continued to see an alarming increase in the number of newly reported cases of COVID-19 in First Nations communities, related to the second wave of the pandemic, with 1,144 new cases reported accordingly as of December 17. On First Nations reserves, as of December 17, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is aware of:

  • 6756 confirmed positive COVID-19
  • 2604 active cases
  • 4088 recovered cases
  • 64 deaths

ISC is working closely with Indigenous and non-Indigenous partners to support an integrated and coordinated approach to support the administration of a COVID-19 vaccine for Indigenous Peoples and communities. Last week, the Government of Canada announced the authorization of the first COVID-19 vaccine in Canada, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, after a thorough, independent review of the evidence for safety, efficacy, and quality requirements for use in Canada. Vaccines will be provided to at-risk groups first on a rolling basis as vaccines are received in Canada, including older adults, Indigenous adults and health care workers.

Although the arrival of a vaccine marks an important development, everyone must continue efforts to keep themselves and their families safer while protecting populations and communities at high risk for severe outcomes. As we enter the holiday period and colder months everyone is urged to continue to limit close contact to only those in their immediate household and reduce in-person interactions to only essential errands and activities. As well, maintaining health practices is crucial: stay home/self-isolate if symptoms arise, maintain physical distancing, wear a face mask as appropriate (including indoors with people from outside the household), and keep up with frequent hand, cough and surface hygiene.

Provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous partners and community organizations continue to work hard to keep their communities safe and the Government of Canada will be there to support them as they continue to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. We are deeply concerned by the rise in COVID-19 cases among Indigenous Peoples in Manitoba. We will continue to work with Indigenous communities to ensure their health and safety while providing support to avoid future outbreaks. Our priority remains supporting Indigenous leaders as they work to protect the health and safety of their Nations.

As such, ISC continues to work closely with Shamattawa First Nation, as well as Red Sucker Lake First Nation to deploy additional resources that are required to support public health measures, as they work to manage the COVID-19 outbreak in their community. ISC is working with the First Nations, provincial, federal, and non-governmental partners to identify available resources, and have them deployed with the concurrence Chiefs and Councils.

As of December 17, the Government of Nunavut is reporting 37 active cases and a total of 259 confirmed cases of COVID-19. In total, 222 people have recovered from the virus and of the four impacted communities, only Arviat still has active cases. There are a total of 31 confirmed positive cases in Nunavik, Quebec and all have recovered. The $19.36 million in immediate funding provided by the Government of Canada to support the Government of Nunavut, Inuit communities and Inuit organizations in their response to the pandemic is being utilized for non-medical personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies, increased essential municipal services, expanded internet bandwidth, early learning and childcare supports, various food security initiatives, and on the land programing that supports safe physical distancing.

The Government of Canada recognizes and thanks the frontline workers who put their own safety on the line every day to make sure families, youth, and especially Elders are kept safe. Their dedication and hard work has reduced the potential number of people who tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country, the risk of spread increases. We urge all community members to support their leadership and follow community and provincial public health measures that have proven to save lives. Everyone can help limit the spread by making wise decisions and following recommended public health measures.