$640 million in additional funding to support Indigenous communities
- EFN Staff | June 05, 2020
Various Indigenous leadership is happy with the recent federal government funding announcement for health, economic, and social support for Indigenous peoples and communities. Prime Minister Trudeau has announced over $640 million in additional funding to support Indigenous communities. The majority of the funding, $285.1 million, will be used by First Nations to fund community-led responses to the pandemic, improvements in primary health care resources, and specialized supplies on a needs-basis.
“COVID-19 has further highlighted the unique challenges that already exist for Indigenous peoples and communities,” stated Trudeau in a media release. “We are listening to Indigenous peoples, and are working with them to ensure they have the support they need to get through this crisis.”
The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde responded to the announcement of new funding and said it “is much needed and welcome.
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, I have spoken directly with Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Miller about the need for increased supports for First Nations during this time. It is good news that Canada has taken this call to heart,” stated Bellegarde in a prepared statement. “This investment is an important step toward ensuring that no one is left behind during these unprecedented times…access to proper health care and protective equipment is essential. We must continue to support First Nations in their efforts to keep their people safe, not only during this current pandemic but also from future health threats. I acknowledge the commitment by the federal government that all funding is scalable and must be based on needs.”
The Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte added that he is thankful that the federal government is recognizing the needs and addressing the challenges of Indigenous communities in the north and remote areas.
“Our communities in the north have the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country, and we hope we will receive this critical funding to support the urgent needs of our population of 43,000,” stated Hardlotte. “With this funding support, we intend to use it toward supporting our community-based health clinics and to create a stockpile of medical supplies like ventilators and PPE in preparation for the second wave of the pandemic.”
The new funding also aims to help and support women and children who are seeking refuge from violence at home during this time of COVID-19.
PAGC Women’s Commission Chair Shirley Henderson said there is a need for immediate funding to “provide urgently needed help and support to women and children who are at higher risk because of the stay-at-home orders and difficulties in accessing help.”
“Many of our women are living in violent situations and they don’t have a place to go. We are deeply concerned that the anxiety created by a pandemic is only making their situations of domestic violence even worse,” said Henderson. “We welcome the news of a new shelter in the province. It is a long time coming but, during this time of this health crisis, the need for safe shelters in Prince Albert and our northern communities is needed more than ever before.”
According to the federal government release, the funding includes:
- $285.1 million to support the ongoing public health response to COVID-19 in Indigenous communities. The investment will fund community-led responses to the pandemic, and provide targeted increases in primary health care resources for First Nations communities. In the case of outbreaks, this funding can be drawn upon to provide surge capacity and additional support for community-based services in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities.
- $270 million to supplement the On-Reserve Income Assistance Program to address the increased demand on the program, which will help individuals and families meet their essential living expenses. It will also help hire additional staff to better serve First Nations communities and connect individuals to other government programs.
- $44.8 million over five years to build 12 new shelters, which will help protect and support Indigenous women and girls experiencing and fleeing violence. This funding will help build 10 shelters in First Nations communities on reserve across the country, and two in the territories, to support Indigenous women and children. The government will also provide $40.8 million to support operational costs for these new shelters over the first five years, and $10.2 million annually ongoing. We are also announcing $1 million a year ongoing, starting this year, to support engagement with Métis leaders and service providers on shelter provision and community-led violence prevention projects for Métis women, girls, and LGBTQ and two-spirit people.