Health (18-24): Current Problems

COVID-19


May 12, 2020


AB, BC, Fed. Govt., MB, NB, NL, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

“Colonialism of the Curve: Indigenous Communities and Bad Covid Data”.

Yellowhead Institute – release of Policy Brief: “Colonialism of the Curve: Indigenous Communities and Bad Covid Data”.
There is wide discrepancy on COVID-19 related health data from Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) and provincial health authorities:

  • There is no agency or organization in Canada reliably recording and releasing Covid-19 data that indicates whether or not a person is Indigenous.
  • The division of powers between provincial and federal government has gradually displaced and disrupted Indigenous governance over time.
  • ISC only gathers on-reserve data which eliminates over 50% of the Indigenous population who live off-reserve
  • Canadian federalism was established to serve Canadians and consequently maintains discrimination and sub-standard service delivery in on-reserve communities.
  • This jurisdictional fight between provinces and the federal government, where both claim the other is responsible for services, more often than not leaves Indigenous people without any services.

Through publicly available data—media reports, Band Council updates to members, local reports and obituaries—a team of researchers supported by Yellowhead has compiled and verified many more cases.

  • ISC: COVID-19 cases = 175; Deaths = 2
  • Yellowhead: COVID-19 cases = 465; Deaths = 7

The same gaps in data collection exist in child welfare and were a primary reason why the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls were unable to definitively identify the number of Indigenous women who have been murdered or are missing. Publicly accessible data makes it easier for Indigenous people to seek accountability from leaders, and to independently evaluate and measure the efficacy of interventions by all levels of government, including our own Indigenous leadership. In fact, this is probably one of the reasons why we don’t have it.


February 9, 2021


BC

Access to COVID-19 Data

Government of BC – A coalition of First Nations and BC’s Provincial Health Officer have negotiated and are signing information sharing agreements that provide more detailed information about COVID-19 case numbers in nearby communities, and will enable the nations to make more informed decisions on safety measures, and provide risk guidance to their members. The agreements’ preamble makes clear that the nations do not view them as providing completely satisfactory disclosure, and they believe systemic change must still occur in BC’s healthcare system Under the terms of the agreements, the Provincial Health Officer will provide the Heiltsuk Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council Member Nations, and Tsilhqot’in National Government with frequent reports listing the number of COVID-19 cases in proximate communities, and certain thresholds must be met before the nations can disclose the number of cases in a community in their public risk statements


December 17, 2020


BC

Access to COVID-19 Data

HEILTSUK & NUU-CHAH-NULTH TERRITORIES – First Nations leaders issued a joint statement in response to the OIPC Commissioner’s ruling this morning on their application for an order for the Ministry of Health to disclose COVID-19 information under section 25(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA): “We are angry and disappointed by today’s ruling which will continue to allow the Ministry of Health to withhold the life-saving information we have been requesting since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

BC’s colonial system of government has failed us yet again by failing to recognize us as the self-governing nations we are. We filed this application because we vowed to use every legal tool to protect our people. Today’s ruling shows us the limits of these tools, because BC and its laws won’t recognize us, or work with us, on a true government-to-government basis, despite saying the right words and passing legislation like the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (DRIPA). If the Ministry of Health and British Columbia have any interest in doing the right thing, they will come to the table immediately and work with us to develop information sharing agreements that can help keep our people safe. Today’s ruling underlines the urgency of this need:

The Commissioner at several points in his ruling, highlights the need to enact legislation to provide for information sharing that facilitates self-government for First Nations. He quotes heavily in his ruling from Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond’s recent report on systemic racism, In Plain Sight.
The decision underscores the inability of the Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act (FIPPA) – in its current form – to facilitate nation-to-nation information sharing that meets the needs of First Nations.


December 17, 2020


BC

Access to COVID-19 Data

BC Information and Privacy Commissioner – Michael McEvoy has rejected the Ministry of Health’s arguments that Public Health Act emergency powers override its duty of public interest disclosure but determined on the facts of the case before him that section 25 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) did not require the Ministry of Health to release requested COVID-19 information to the Heiltsuk Tribal Council, Tsilhqot’in National Government, and Nuu-chahnulth Tribal Council. he held that, while COVID-19 creates a risk of significant harm to the public, sufficient information is already available on COVID-19 cases to enable the public, and the complainant governments, to take steps to avoid or mitigate the risks connected with COVID-19.


December 1, 2020


BC

Access to COVID-19 Data

BELLA BELLA, BRITISH COLUMBIA – A coalition of First Nations leaders who have been calling on BC’s Ministry of Health to share COVID-19 case information with their governments for months, say they feel vindicated by Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond’s report on systemic racism, and expect BC’s provincial health officer and Minister of Health, to implement the report’s recommendations immediately, including addressing COVID-19 information sharing. Turpel-Lafond’s report finds pandemic is magnifying racism and disproportionally impacting Indigenous people, including a lack of “timely and complete sharing of data related to positive or presumptive cases of COVID in or near First Nations Communities.”


September 13, 2020


MB

Access to COVID-19 Data

Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) – MMF filed a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission against the Government of Manitoba, the Honourable Cameron Friesen – Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living – and Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s Chief Provincial Public Health Officer. The complaint states that the Manitoba Métis Community has been subject to discrimination and systemic discrimination by the Manitoba Government as well as Manitoba’s lead health official throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Dr. Roussin said in the media months ago that the province was prepared to engage with the Manitoba Métis on a data sharing agreement. We sent letters intended to initiate the discussions necessary to reach an agreement with Manitoba, but never received a positive response.” The MMF notes that it was engaged with Manitoba in early April but was told by the province that self-identification was sufficient evidence of someone being Métis. Discussions with the province came to a halt after we requested that Métis Citizens be verified by the MMF”.

“Sharing incorrect data created by those who falsely identify as Métis comes with a number of problems. We want to ensure that our resources are being used in an effective way that benefits the Métis Nation and indeed all Manitobans.” The MMF sent several letters between the months of April and August requesting Manitoba engage in a data sharing agreement whereby the MMF can confirm the identity of those who self-identify as Métis, but never received a formal response.

“Because of the lack of a data sharing agreement, a Métis Nation Citizen could get sick and we have no way of being notified,” said MMF Minister of Health Frances Chartrand. “We have been forced to rely on word of mouth from the Manitoba Métis Community to tell us that a Métis Citizen has contracted COVID-19 and is in need of our support. Any data analyzed by the province using false identifications of Métis would not be useful.”


September 5, 2020


BC

Access to COVID-19 Data

NationTalk – A coalition of First Nations is escalating its efforts to receive potentially life-saving COVID-19 information from the BC Ministry of Health, by applying to the Information and Privacy Commissioner for an order to disclose proximate case information about the location (not personal identity) of confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases near their communities. The application, which was filed by the Heiltsuk Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council and Tsilhqot’in National Government, is supported by several other First Nations, civil society groups, and doctors. A public campaign (https://keepsafecampaign.com) has been launched with LeadNow, asking British Columbians to call on the government to release the information.

The nations have filed their application on the basis that the BC government’s refusal to share information violates Section 25 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), which states that a Minister “must” disclose information about a risk of significant harm to an affected group of people. The nations also contend in their application that BC’s own Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA) requires that government “must take all measures necessary” to ensure the laws of BC are consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous people (UNDRIP), which includes rights to self-determination, self-government and to develop and determine programs for maintaining the health and well-being of Indigenous people.


January 6, 2022


Fed. Govt., ON

Bearskin Lake COVID Crisis

Toronto Star – Last week Bearskin Lake declared a state of emergency due to the high number of COVID-19 cases in the community. On Monday morning Chief Lefty Kamenawatamin issued a press release requesting the Government of Canada provide military assistance for the beleaguered community: “Currently, the majority of households are under quarantine and require food and water delivery, chopped wood for heating, and medication to relieve fever and pain.”

This is one of those rare moments in the Canadian media cycle where the public receives a glimpse of life in a remote, northern Indigenous community. Bearskin Lake is a town of about 450 people that lacks year-round road access to neighbouring communities, connection to the electrical power grid, and a resident physician or dentist. The community’s airport, located more than 10 km northwest of the town, was built in the 1940s; its gravel runway is too short to accommodate large cargo planes.

For power, the community relies on a diesel-generated system which is dependent on fuel trucked in during the short ice-road season. Operating the community’s aging road, water and sewer infrastructure is a year-round challenge for local staff. A long-term boil-water advisory has been in place in the community since February 2021. The town has a small health centre staffed by two nurses. Physician services are provided through telemedicine and by rotating visits from Sioux Lookout, located more than 450 km to the south.

Bearskin Lake is not alone in facing enormous hurdles to economic and social development. In Northern Ontario alone, there are 31 First Nation communities with similar infrastructure and service challenges. Across Canada there are 118 Indigenous communities defined as “remote.” Each year, the limited provincial and federal investments made toward improvements make few inroads in the gaps in health and living conditions faced by people living in these communities.

In Bearskin Lake, nearly half of the population has tested positive with COVID-19. Those who haven’t are exhausted from caring for their ill family and community members. Supplies of food, water and wood are diminishing, and people are too tired, ill or impoverished to replenish them. The town lacks hotels and food service to cope with an influx of volunteers, and so cannot accept their generosity for fear of depleting the town’s limited resources.

Bearskin Lake is in crisis, and the situation in other remote Indigenous communities is similarly dire. Chief Kamenawatamin has called for aid. Will Canada answer?


June 23, 2020


AB

COVID & the Environment

NationTalk – All temporarily suspended reporting and monitoring requirements will come back into effect on July 15, 2020. The Alberta Energy Regulator’s (AER) decision to end its temporary suspensions follows steps taken by the Government of Alberta, including the repeal of Ministerial Order 219/2020 and Ministerial Order 17/2020.


May 8, 2020


AB

COVID & the Environment

Clean Tech Canada (Canadian Manufacturing) – The leader of a Fort McKay First Nation surrounded by oilsands development is frustrated by the Alberta Energy Regulator’s decision to suspend a wide array of environmental reporting requirements for oil sands companies over public-health concerns raised by the COVID-19 pandemic by the Imperial Oil, Suncor, Syncrude and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. don’t have to perform much of the testing and monitoring originally required in their licences. The regulator says some programs are to resume by the end of September, but most have no restart date. The latest exemptions specifically relieve operators of the following:

  • Monitoring most ground and surface water, unless it enters the environmental
  • most all wildlife and bird monitoring is suspended
  • Air-quality programs, including one for the First Nations community of Fort McKay, have been reduced, along with many other conditions of the companies’ licences
  • Testing for leaks of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, has been suspended
  • Wetlands monitoring and research is gone until further notice
  • Water that escapes from storm ponds no longer must be tested

The decisions to suspend environmental monitoring were made unilaterally. We were not notified—in fact, we would have had no idea this had occurred if it had not been revealed in the press,” stated Mel Grandjamb, Chief of Fort McKay First Nation. Consultation would have enabled us to inform the regulator how its monitoring decisions impact our Nations. Both we and the industry would have been better served by the clarity that consultation would have contributed to these decisions.”

In the days leading up to these decisions, our representatives sat AER, government and industry representatives to provide oversight to environmental monitoring programs under the Oil Sands Monitoring Program. The fact AER did not mention once it was considering suspending monitoring, some of which may overlap with program work, is very disappointing. This neglect does not encourage reconciliation. In March, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers requested that the federal government relax several regulatory and policy activities, including an indefinite suspension of all consultation with industry to develop new environmental policies. At the same time, industry has lobbied the provincial government to resume consultation with Indigenous communities to advance projects despite the closure of our communities due to COVID-19 pandemic responses.


February 17, 2022


ON

COVID issues in northern Ontario vs southern Ontario

Feb. 17, 2022: CBC – As Ontario lifts more COVID-19 restrictions, First Nations in the province’s north are still grappling with the Omicron surge. Chiefs from several northern several northern communities were briefed Wednesday about the COVID-19 situation, and the Sioux Lookout First Nation Health Authority outlined the difference in northern data about the virus compared to the south.

“While things elsewhere in the province are maybe moving ahead and have all the resources at their disposal. First Nations in this region again do not have access to all the infrastructure that someone else down south might have access to,” said Dr. Lloyd Douglas, the top public health physician for the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority (SLFNHA).

Douglas told CBC News the provincewide easing of many restrictions is missing the context of what’s happening in northern areas. He said not only is a historic lack of resources a concern at this stage in the pandemic, but the north is also weeks behind the rest of the province when it comes to test positivity rates and hospitalizations. The health authority is seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases in the region Eabametoong and Mishkeegogamang First Nations in outbreak, while Pikangikum is just starting to see a decline in spread of the virus.

Dr. Anna Banerji, an infectious disease specialist and founder of the Indigenous Health Conference, said the province has not fully consulted with people on the ground in remote First Nations.  She said the risks for having COVID-19 unleashed into remote communities is more consequential than in the southern part of the province.

She pointed to a number of factors that can worsen the situation, such as:

  • overcrowding in homes
  • a lack of surge capacity and 
  • health-care infrastructure

The discrepancies between what’s happening in different parts of the province shows it’s time for more representation from the north at the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, added Banerji. Sol Mamakwa, Ontario NDP MPP for the riding of Kiiwetinoong, echoes the concerns for northern Ontario as COVID-19 case counts climb. He said having representation from northern communities in the form of a separate chief medical officer of health is a crucial step toward having a strong public health system. 

“Sometimes, we’re not treated as part of Ontario, as citizens of Ontario. And I think it’s really important to put the uniqueness of First Nations when we speak about having a medical officer,” he said.


May 25, 2021


Fed. Govt.

COVID-19 Health resources

Healthy Debates – “Indigenous health services often hampered by legislative confusion“. The federal and provincial governments negotiate health transfers based on the Canada Health Act, which specifies the conditions and criteria required of provincial health insurance programs. It doesn’t mention First Nations and Inuit peoples, Métis and non-status or off-reserve Indigenous peoples who are covered by the Indian Act.

This lack of clarity – and lack of policies for providing Indigenous health services – has historically been used by both the federal government and provinces to narrowly define their responsibilities toward Indigenous health. It’s created bureaucratic delays that leave Indigenous peoples waiting for care or medications readily available to non-Indigenous Canadians. And it’s created gaps in care between Indigenous and non-status and First Nations people living off-reserve.

“The move to a new fiscal relationship is significant,” Grand Chief Doug Kelly, chair of the First Nations Health Authority of BC says. Leaving Indigenous people out of health care discussions and program design hasn’t worked. Instead, he says, First Nations communities should be empowered to identify their priorities and develop a plan. Once costs are attached, communities would negotiate with the government for transfer payments. Groups like the First Nations Health Managers Association that Marion Crowe, Executive Director represents, have been working to prepare communities for the eventual transfer of responsibility, focusing on developing health human resource and health administrative capacity within First Nations communities.


January 15, 2021


MB

Excluding Métis from COVID-19 Task Force

Winnipeg Free Press – Government has left the Métis out of its COVID-19 vaccine task force and plans no vaccination clinics targeted to them. That’s despite Premier Brian Pallister having said he’s committed to including Métis people in the vaccine rollout, guided by reconciliation. Emails obtained by the Free Press show provincial officials have asked the Manitoba Metis Federation to help combat vaccine hesitancy, and to possibly help Métis people travel to vaccination super sites in cities. Yet there is still no invitation to any group that decides the order of precedence for vaccines, despite First Nations being appointed to that task force on Dec. 18 and receiving doses a week ago.

“The voices of Métis people are being heard through the process,” the premier said. That rings hollow to Chartrand, who says towns that have large Métis populations have medical needs similar to reserves, and should be part of the initial rollout. He feels the Pallister government is punishing the federation over a protracted dispute over a Hydro payout and “playing political games at a time when lives are at risk.” Since the pandemic stared, Chartrand has been in conflict with the province over a data-sharing pact similar to ones with First Nations and Inuit officials.


January 24, 2022


ON

First Nations children excluded from Government COVID Program

Toronto Star – First Nations children in Ontario are excluded from the provincial governments commitments “that all schools in Ontario will have access to rapid COVID tests and N95 masks for teachers, as well as upgraded masks for students and HEPA filters in each classroom.”

Excuses from provincial leaders hold that this is the responsibility of their federal counterparts.
The excuses continue from federal officials, who respond that there is limited funding, while local leaders on the ground complain that you can only apply for supplies through a complicated process entrenched in lengthy bureaucratic procedures — and applications rarely yield results.

How many HEPA filters has the Nishnawbe Aski Nation received to date for schools? The answer is none.
“We haven’t seen anything yet,” said Bobby Narcisse, the deputy grand chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which represents 49 First Nations in northern Ontario. “It’s just looking for that equitable access to many of those resources that every other school in the province has access to.” How would parents feel if their child was denied access to safety measures that other children were entitled to, based on their race? Most parents would say this is discrimination and would not tolerate it. Yet we permit it for Indigenous children and youth across the province.
Currently, there is urgency for the children going back to school during the worst health crisis of our lives.
Premier Ford says all children have access to supplies to make school safer. We must ensure that this really means all children in Ontario.

The province should now immediately apply Jordan’s Principle, which prioritizes the safety of children first, while addressing jurisdictional infighting over financial payments later.


November 2, 2020


MB

First Nations hardest hit by COVID-19, appeal for increased funding

Southern Chiefs Organization – is making an urgent appeal to all levels of government to free up increased funding and resources to contain COVID-19 in First Nations where the test positivity rate among First Nations is 11% vs the provincial average of 8.6%. Manitoba has the worst case count per capita in Canada including daily outbreaks in hospitals, personal care homes, jails, and remote communities. “The provincial government had six months to prepare for this second wave of the virus,” added Grand Chief Daniels. “Instead of being adequately prepared, we are now bearing witness to the tragic loss of life and system collapse after years of so-called reorganization and red tape reduction.”

Today, the province announced that it will finally reactivate its incident command structure, to help “provide clear direction and ensure co-ordinated efforts are put in place to address the situation.” This is another example of how the Manitoba government is failing to keep First Nations and all Manitobans safe. The command structure was deactivated months ago, and it has taken the province until now to reactivate it, despite the alarming increases in cases which began many weeks ago.

As of October 31, 2020, 26 First Nation communities across Canada have reported two or more active cases with 17 of them located in Manitoba. There were 516 active cases in the province among First Nation people, 171 of them on reserve “If the province’s system is on the verge of collapse, imagine what that could mean for First Nation’s health care resources,” remarked Grand Chief Daniels. “Thanks to centuries of colonization, we have been dealing with an infrastructure backlog for generations. Add to that the challenges of a global pandemic and you have a recipe for disaster.”

Along with a call for improved transparency, action and accountability from the province, SCO is calling on the federal government to fast track the release of $200 million in recently announced funding to provide support to First Nations. That money will be immediately used to help build critical infrastructure including badly needed isolation units as well as upgrades for health, social, and educational facilities.


March 17, 2020


AB, BC, Fed. Govt., MB, NB, NL, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

H1N1 and Systemic Racism

Globe and Mail – Despite accounting for just under 5 per cent of the Canadian population, Indigenous people were 25 per cent of those admitted to ICUs during the first wave of H1N1. First Nations children were 21 per cent of the paediatric patients admitted to ICUs during both waves. This led to sad and tragic outcomes. Indigenous peoples represented 17.6 per cent of the reported deaths in the first wave and 8.9 per cent of reported deaths in the second.These figures likely reflect the lack of timely interventions and diagnoses that plague communities who depend on understaffed nursing stations for their health-care needs, as well as jurisdictional squabbling about roles and responsibilities.

John Borrows is Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law at the University of Victoria Law School writing with Constance MacIntosh, Viscount Bennett Professor of Law at Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University


April 20, 2020


Fed. Govt., BC, AB, SK, MB, ON, QC, NB, NS, PE, NL, NU, YT, NT

Incarcerated prisoners

First Nations leadership across BC is united in calling for immediate action to protect incarcerated peoples amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 outbreak at the Mission Institution is now the third largest outbreak in the Province of BC, with the first inmate tragically passing away on April 15, 2020. Senior health and corrections officials have verified that almost 40% of the confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Mission Institution are among Indigenous inmates despite Indigenous people making up just 5% of the population in BC.


May 21, 2020


MB

Manitoba Hydro’s Keeyask project

CBC – Members of the four First Nation community partners of Manitoba Hydro’s Keeyask project (Tataskweyak, Fox Lake, War Lake and York Factory) have launched protests to protect their communities from COVID-19. Hydro is switching out the current 600 on-site employees with an outside group of 1000 some of whom are from outside Manitoba. The Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench issued an injunction on Monday, ordering the blockade be removed and Hydro be granted access to the construction site. The injunction was served on Wednesday by members of the RCMP.

Chief Doreen Spence “ripped that injunction [and] put it on the ground,” Tataskweyak band Coun. Nathan Neckoway said Thursday morning.

A number of Tataskweyak Cree Nation community members who are concerned about the possible spread of COVID-19 started blocking Provincial Road 280 and the north access road to the Manitoba Hydro Keeyask work site on the weekend, in an attempt to stop a worker shift change scheduled for Tuesday. After the injunction was delivered, Fox Lake First Nation put up their own blockade on the Keeyask south access road.


November 19, 2020


AB, BC, Fed. Govt., MB, NB, NL, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

Problems with Indigenous COVID-19 data

Toronto Star – COVID-19 is negatively impacting both on-reserve and off-reserve Indigenous populations. “Hospitalizations and intensive-care rates are sky high for off-reserve populations and testing is low. Both on and off reserves, about 18% of tests come back positive. The issues identified by Janet Smylie, research chair in Indigenous health knowledge and information at Well Living House at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto is threefold:

  1. Urban Indigenous people are not included in federal statistics nor are they “included in new initiatives to collect statistics on a disaggregated basis to take into account minorities
  2. They check all the boxes for being at high risk for catching COVID-19
  3. Due to health delivery being delivered by the provinces, Indigenous data is fragmented as a result of “decades of entrenched jurisdictional conflict and passing the buck”
  4. The trends in Manitoba could be indicative of broader trends impacting urban indigenous communities in other provinces and sound, reliable data is essential to inform decisions.

“Resources could be allocated to a fragile segment of the population in a way that is both effective and meaningful”. The National Association of Friendship Centres is at the frontline of delivering services to the urban Indigenous population with centres across the country. “Staff at the centres are constantly scrambling for extra space, resources and personal protective equipment to handle the safety demands of the virus.” Jocelyn Formsma, Executive Director, NAFC


April 23, 2020


AB, BC, Fed. Govt., MB, NB, NL, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

Release of at-risk Indigenous inmates

The Indigenous Bar Association (IBA)– Calls Upon Federal, Provincial and Territorial Justice Ministers and Attorneys General to Immediately Release low-risk Indigenous Inmates over COVID-19.Specifically, we call for the immediate release of incarcerated Indigenous people and the following actions:

  • Immediately and minimally, carry-out the release of Indigenous inmates that are low-risk, non-violent, nearly eligible for parole, nearing sentence end, over 50 years of age, pregnant women, those offenders who are able to be adequately supervised in the community, and those at heightened risk due to pre-existing medical and chronic health conditions;
  • The release of inmates described above to apply to federal and provincial correctional facilities, including all remand, youth and short-term detentions centres;
    • For those that absolutely cannot be released, ensure:
    • Full access to medical and mental health care;]]
    • Full and equitable access to personal protective equipment, medical grade sanitizer and cleaning agents, personal hygiene products, and other critical supplies, with invariable availability of these supplies to all inmates and correction workers (including officers, administrators, and all other employees and contractors);
  • Access to enhanced cultural supports during heightened safety measures, ensuring any quarantine of those incarcerated is carried out in the least traumatic way, in an attempt to mitigate resurgence of traumatic experiences or intergenerational effects of the legacy of colonialism;
  • In accordance with domestic and international laws and conventions, ensure that institutions do not use isolation methods that are akin to segregation punishment for infected inmates, specifically:
    • Individuals should not serve longer than 15 days in segregation, isolation, solitary confinement, medical removal or administrative removal;
    • Those who are segregated within the 15-day limit are given access to daily use of shower, telephone, and recreational facilities;
    • Those who are segregated are given daily access to mental health professionals in attempt to mitigate the lasting damage done by isolation;
  • Implement the short and long-term measures identified recently by the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs in their open letter dated March 24, 2020; and
  • Correctional Services Canada and all provincial correctional jurisdictions implement the recommendations of the Correctional Investigator of Canada, Dr. Ivan Zinger and take notice of specific requests by Indigenous organizations and communities.

Protecting the health of oilsands workers is more important than protecting the health of Indigenous people as evidenced by the suspension of environmental monitoring by Alberta Energy Regulator


May 19, 2021


MB

Systemic Racism

Southern Chiefs Organization – 45% of ICU patients in Manitoba are First Nation people despite representing only 10 per cent of the total population. Manitoba is now the worst COVID-19 hotspot in North America.

“I am deeply concerned about the health and well-being of the people I represent if these trends continued,” stated Grand Chief Daniels. “Our people have been disproportionately impacted throughout this pandemic and Pallister’s continued failed leadership means even more lives will be lost, especially First Nation lives. Main issues:

  1. 1chronic staffing shortages, with senior level nurses the most likely to leave as they face long hours and burnout, largely due to the failure of the province to gain control of COVID-19 cases at the beginning of the second and third waves of the pandemic.
  2. Unaddressed outcomes that resulted from the closing of several emergency rooms in 2019, including at Concordia, Seven Oaks, and Victoria Hospitals. This loss of emergency care has had harmful effects on communities that have never been addressed. In November of 2020, the province doubled down on this failed policy and closed emergency services at Grandview Health Centre, resulting in many local residents holding a rally in protest of the decision.
  3. SCO is calling on the province to pay heed to the latest epidemiology and modelling and to do everything it possibly can to curb this latest surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, especially with the marked increase in variants of concern, which are more contagious and deadly.

Closing Thought

On Dec. 19, 2020 Manitoba First Nations represented 47% of all ICU patients. Six months later that number sits at 45%. What has Brian Pallister’s government done to prepare for COVID-19 especially since – after the Inuit – Manitoba First Nations were the hardest hit during the H1N1 epidemic of 2009.

See also “Perspective” article: “is Premier Brian Pallister of Manitoba a racist, an entitled colonial brat or both?”


November 12, 2020


AB, BC, Fed. Govt., MB, NB, NL, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

Systemic Racism at federal, provincial, territory ministers human rights meeting

NationTalk – 24 civil society groups attending the third ever meeting of Federal, Provincial, Territory Ministers responsible for human rights “condemned the obstructive attitude of some governments” in advancing international human rights obligations. Groups had pressed governments to commit to nation-wide law reform that will legally require governments to adopt a collaborative, accountable, consistent, transparent, well-coordinated approach to effectively implementing international human rights obligations in Canada. No commitment was made. Two governments boycotted the meeting:

The government of Quebec opposed included references to “systemic” racism in the final communiqué, a position that blatantly ignores the undeniable reality of deeply-rooted systemic racism in the province and across Canada, and thus reaffirms systemic racism as a nationwide reality.
The government of Alberta considers that the province is not bound to report on or engage with international instruments or mechanisms to which it is not a Party, a position that contravenes international law which makes it clear that federalism is no excuse or justification for failing to comply with international obligations.
In 2017, meeting for the first time in 29 years, ministers made several commitments to strengthen their collaboration in protecting human rights across Canada:

Ministers had taken account of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call on federal, provincial and territorial governments to “fully adopt and implement” the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is a shocking and unacceptable omission to see no reference to the Declaration in the final communiqué from this week’s meeting.
During the past eight months of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, no government has applied – equitably or otherwise – an explicit economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights framework to analyze the problems laid bare, or to structure solutions.
A widely-endorsed proposal in April 2020 from 302 civil society groups, Indigenous peoples’ organizations and a broad spectrum of subject matter experts to federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments to institute meaningful human rights oversight of their COVID-19 responses has not been taken up by any government in the country.

At the current meeting, Ministers discussed the human rights implications of the COVID-19 pandemic and agreed that it is “important that human rights principles be considered in the development of plans for a strong and equitable recovery from the pandemic for all Canadians” but in no way acknowledged or even referenced social and economic rights. The proposal for human rights oversight of COVID-19 responses was not addressed.


January 8, 2021


BC

Work Camps and COVID-19

Prince George Citizen – An open letter written by Wet’suwet’en Ts’ako ze’ (female chiefs) is being backed by 400 health care workers in B.C. calling on the province to close work camps during the pandemic. A letter addressed to Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer on Dec. 16, 2020, penned by Dr. Bilal Bagha, was signed by more than 650 people. “We unequivocally support the recommendations of the Wet’suwet’en Ts’ako ze’ and Skiy ze’ in their letter to you on the widespread and deadly racism and discrimination experienced by Indigenous peoples in the health care system in B.C.,” the letter states. “As health professionals working on the frontlines, we see firsthand the brunt of the devastation caused to communities by the dual public health emergencies of the climate crisis and COVID-19 pandemic — which both


December 15, 2020


BC

Work Camps and COVID-19

The Tyee – Wet’suwet’en Elders in Witset have identified five COVID-19 cases directly linked “to workers returning from job sites at an LNG Canada plant in Kitimat and the Coastal GasLink pipeline camps closer to home. Those have led to spread of the virus within their community…That spread — the second cluster of cases there in recent months — began two weeks ago, around the time 22 Ts’ako ze’ (female chiefs) wrote to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry expressing concerns about work camps continuing to operate on Wet’suwet’en territory during the pandemic. Violet Gellenbeck, one of the chiefs who signed the letter, says they’re still waiting for an answer.

In their letter, Ts’ako ze’ representing the nation’s five clans expressed particular concern with three camps on Wet’suwet’en territory in Burns Lake, south of Houston and near the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre. Gellenbeck says camp workers who test positive for the disease are sent home without consideration for who they live with or their ability to self-isolate. The letter from the Wet’suwet’en Ts’ako ze’ was followed on Dec. 5 by a letter written by Ron Mitchell, Hereditary Chief Hagwilnegh, on behalf of the nation’s Dinï’ze, or male chiefs. Hundreds of health and social workers have also signed an open letter to Henry expressing concern about the camps. Last week, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs also called on the province to close the camps.


November 2, 2020


MB

Work Camps and COVID-19

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc. – is issuing this statement along with the four Cree Nations that are in a partnership with Manitoba Hydro in the construction and operation of the Keeyask Generating Station in Northern Manitoba. The four First Nations are: Tataskweyak Cree Nation, Fox Lake Cree Nation, War Lake First Nation, and York Factory Cree Nation. On October 22, 2020, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed at the Keeyask site. Since then, an unspecified number of COVID-19 tests have been done on staff. Yesterday, First Nations leaders learned that additional positive cases have been confirmed and many more cases are presumed positives. Almost 10% of the workforce is now in isolation.

MKO and the four First Nations are demanding that the Province of Manitoba immediately declare the Keeyask construction site as code red under the province’s pandemic response system. The First Nations are asking the province to take aggressive action to bring the epidemic under control. MKO and the First Nations are extremely concerned about the lack of information Manitoba Hydro has provided on the spread of this virus. People from the four First Nations work at Keeyask and fear that people may have unknowingly brought COVID-19 back to their home communities before the first case of COVID-19 was detected on October 22. Manitoba Hydro cannot confirm on what date the virus may have appeared on site. The First Nations are working closely with public health officials to determine next steps.

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, MKO First Nations have expressed concerns about Manitoba Hydro’s plans for the Keeyask construction site. Manitoba Hydro has more than 750 employees at Keeyask who come and go from the site on rotating shifts—most employees have 21 days on and 7 days off. Manitoba Hydro has staff working at the site from various parts of Canada, including a current COVID-19 hotspot—Winnipeg.

“I commend the First Nations leaders who have worked diligently to try to protect our people. The provincial government must take aggressive action at the Keeyask construction site as there is an uncontrolled epidemic taking place. This site is not providing any hydro-electric power at this point, it is not an essential operation. MKO asserts that Manitoba Hydro and the Government of Manitoba need to put people before profits,” shared MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee.


June 25, 2020


BC

Work Camps and COVID-19

News 1130 – The Heiltsuk, Nuu-chah-nulth, and Tsilhqot’in nations say the provincial government didn’t consult them before throwing the doors open to non-essential travel. Their priority, they say, is protecting elders and Indigenous leaders say basic safety measures are not yet in place to be able to welcome travellers to their communities.


June 24, 2020


BC

Work Camps and COVID-19

Globe and Mail – First Nations are among the most vulnerable populations in B.C., with the most to lose – the loss of an elder represents a loss of language, culture and history. First Nations are still waiting for the BC government to respond to repeated requests for more information and resources to protect communities and fulfill the following four basic measures:

  • An information-sharing agreement to ensure early reporting of suspected and confirmed cases in nearby regions to Indigenous governments;
  • screening methods to ensure travellers seeking to enter Indigenous territory are not symptomatic or infected with the virus;
  • rapid-testing mechanisms available that can prioritize Indigenous and remote communities – in fact, there are currently just two rapid testing kits for all Indigenous communities in B.C.
  • And finally, funding for culturally safe contact-tracing that can increase the likelihood of effective tracing in the event of an outbreak, and reduce the risk of racist interactions with the health care system of the sort the government has decried.

We continue to call on the B.C. government to consult and meet with us, on a nation-to-nation basis, to begin implementing the four safety measures on an urgent basis, and to discuss the underlying issue of systemic racism, which appears to be driving the status quo of putting Indigenous lives at risk.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-bcs-covid-19-re-opening-plans-continue-to-put-indigenous-people-at/


May 20, 2020


MB

Work Camps and COVID-19

CBC – We were not included in the discussion of the plan for the shift change,” said Robert Wavey, a band member and spokesperson for Fox Lake Cree Nation. “It was given to [First Nations] after Hydro came up with their plan.” “Our First Nations leaders do not want to see a repeat of what is happening in La Loche, Sask.,” Settee said in the letter, referencing a COVID-19 outbreak in the northern and largely Indigenous town, which affected more than 100 people.