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First Nations to receive $305 million COVID-19 fund


Last updated 4/7/2020 at 1:02pm

Ramone Romero/First Nations Version Project;

Indigenous people throughout Canada will receive aid to help with fallout.

Ottawa, Ont.-The Trudeau government has promised $305 million to help Indigenous communities deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the $305 million Indigenous community support fund as part of a broader $82 billion aid package to help Canadians and businesses deal with the fallout from COVID-19.

Trudeau announced last week that Indigenous communities could draw from a $100 million envelope that was part of a $1 billion investment to boost public health measures.

"These are some of the things our government is doing to make sure that no matter where you live, what you do or who you are, you will get the support you need during this time," said Trudeau.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the funds will be in place to respond to any situation faced by Indigenous communities as the pandemic unfolds across the country.

"We need to recognize that we don't know all the situations so far," said Morneau. "That's what we're doing in the case of Indigenous peoples, and we're looking forward to working together very rapidly to figure out the details."

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde has praised Trudeau's announcement, as other Indigenous leaders also weighed in.

"We know this is a first-time kind of thing for dealing with this," said Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians Grand Chief Joel Abram, whose organization represents seven First Nations in Ontario. "I think everybody is trying to be as patient as we can, but it is an urgent situation and we need to know where the money is going."

Abram told that his organization has been dealing with Ontario and Ottawa to prepare for the pandemic, but thinks the two levels need better communication. "I think it's best if we start to get something coordinated," he said. "Everything is fluid and there are a lot of moving parts."

Abram said he'd like to see on-reserve testing because many people can't easily get to urban centres.

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan, issued a statement requesting clarity on how the funds will be used.

"Some of our nations can afford to get supplies and medicines to their people and await reimbursements from the federal government," said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron. "But there are also many communities that don't have this luxury and are continuing to wait for the funding necessary to get needed supplies and groceries to their most vulnerable . . . We need clarity on what our region is getting and when they will receive it."

Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which represents 49 First Nations in Northern Ontario, outlined their COVID-19 needs to Indigenous Services.

Northern and fly-in First Nations face elevated risks from a COVID-19 outbreak because of residential overcrowding and the prevalence of diabetes and other medical conditions, as well as a nurse shortage. Indigenous Services has announced that the department will expand existing contracts for nursing agencies and increase other health personnel in the event of an outbreak.


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