After speaking with Indigenous leaders across Canada about the federal government’s response to the threat COVID-19 poses to Indigenous communities, Jagmeet Singh released the following statement:
“I’m encouraged by the funding announced yesterday, but based on my conversation with Indigenous leaders across the country, it is clear that it is past time for the government to move beyond talking and act to deliver clear, evidence-based support to Indigenous communities to protect community health.
People have serious concerns over whether federal service centres will remain open, about how Indigenous communities can access funding the federal government announced weeks ago, and how they can access funding announced yesterday. On-the-ground communication remain unclear.
The Finance Minister said that, ‘there are details that we need to continue to work out.’ I hope things will be worked out in partnership with Indigenous people and that it will be done quickly. Communities need funding now, not weeks from now.
The federal government must develop and implement strong and more aggressive outbreak plans for Indigenous communities. In addition, they must include Indigenous leadership in all pandemic planning – at all government levels.
For so long, the federal government has left these communities behind. The state of infrastructure in many communities makes following social distancing, handwashing, and other public health recommendations extremely difficult or impossible. Self-isolation and social distancing are not a privilege that many communities have when they are facing an overcrowding crisis in scarce and often unsafe housing. Handwashing is difficult when you can’t get clean water.
Indigenous leaders expressed that health care capacity in their communities are already stretched to or beyond the breaking point, and in the event of an outbreak in their communities, they will need to have access to additional resources and air ambulance services will need to remain available to keep people safe.
I will do everything that I can to help the government provide to Indigenous communities:
- Fast and easy access to announced funding;
- Support for proper screening to prevent infection in Indigenous communities;
- Funding to ensure adequate medical supplies for communities;
- Planning to ensure reliable transportation routes to remote communities for critical goods, such as food and medical supplies;
- Access to air ambulance services for patients who may need to leave to seek treatment.”