Indigenous leaders and organisations have sounded the alarm bell on the potentially "devastating" threat that COVID-19 virus poses to First Nations. Chronic overcrowding, a bad flu season, lack of access to clean drinking water, and severely underfunded health services have put many Indigenous communities at higher risk.
The Green Party of Canada has long called for investing and upgrading critical infrastructure to ensure safe water access in every community to end drinking water and boil water advisories and prioritize high quality, safe and affordable housing. Both these measures would have helped to prevent two of the main deficiencies which could increase the spread of COVID-19 in Indigenous communities.
The government’s announcement of the creation of a $305 million COVID-19 Fund to help Indigenous communities deal with the pandemic is welcome. Greater detail is needed on how the funds will be distributed and spent, how soon Indigenous communities can expect to receive the funds, and how the Fund will be replenished if needed.
Now is not the time to quibble about jurisdiction. It is immensely important for the government to respect its obligation to uphold Jordan’s Principle in full, ensuring Indigenous Peoples receive the health care they need without being delayed by bureaucratic disagreements over jurisdiction with other levels of government.
However, real reconciliation requires Indigenous self-determination and permanent decision making power through an official council of Crown and Indigenous governments. The Green Party has proposed the creation of a Council of Canadian Governments to convene all level of governments and permanent seats for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit governments. The Council would discuss and decide upon issues of national importance and set higher order policy priorities.
To prepare for the future, the Green Party has called for the government to sustain the Aboriginal Health Human Resources Initiative in order to continue capacity building in the health care profession for Indigenous communities. We are also calling for the implementation of Calls to Action 18-24 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for improving health care for Indigenous Peoples.