March 12th, 2020
Letter to Minister Miller - First Nations need a clear coronavirus plan
Dear Minister Miller,
Yesterday, your government announced a plan in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. I am concerned that you were not included in this announcement. I am also concerned that there are no details with respect to the announcement for First Nations. I would like to know what your department and government are doing to ensure that First Nations are supported in the face of the coronavirus.
As I know you are aware, H1N1 disproportionately affected First Nations and Inuit people. While the average infection rate across the country was 24 per 100,00, First Nations in Manitoba had an infection rate of 130 per 100,000. In Nunavut, the infection rate was 1,070. In a particularly egregious example of heartlessness, the government sent body bags to First Nations in northern Manitoba. It is within this backdrop that First Nations in my riding and across the country are expressing concern over your government’s preparedness in the face of the coronavirus.
They’ve seen this before.
Yesterday’s announcement allocated $100 million for an “additional public health response, including funding for Indigenous Services Canada.” What percentage of that money will go towards any additional public health responses versus funding for Indigenous Services Canada to deal with the coronavirus in First Nations communities? For communities without access to hospitals, like the Island Lake region or Cross Lake what short term plans are in place to create field hospitals and infrastructure necessary? In communities that don’t have clean drinking water, like in Garden Hill that is off the boiled water advisory but due to a lack of investment in housing and plumbing, still don’t have drinking water, what is being done? What plans are in place where self isolation is functionally impossible due the housing crisis? With the winter road season ending in the next couple weeks, getting medical and infrastrucure supplies in needs to be done now or it will be too late.
Ultimately, the reason First Nations are at a higher risk of coronavirus and other pandemics is a result of chronic underfunding and federal neglect. The federal government must work with First Nations to address the serious needs in their communities. Your government must act urgently to address the gaps that exist in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
I am looking forward to hearing about your department’s and your government’s concrete plan of action to ensure that First Nations in our region are supported.
MP Niki Ashton – Churchill—Keewatinook Aski