Indigenous communities will see new funding, including $285-million for an increased public-health response to COVID-19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday.
The federal government said the additional investments could support community-based services in the case of outbreaks.
Mr. Trudeau said that while progress has been made, some communities are not properly equipped to handle a COVID-19 outbreak and that must be addressed.
“These funds will go toward more nurses, will help procure specialized supplies and will support work with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities on continued community-driven responses,” he said.
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller also said on Friday that the government is in a position to increase the number of health care professionals at nursing centres in communities by up to 40 per cent if required.
The threat of a second wave is very real, Mr. Miller added, and stressed the need for continuing vigilance.
Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam has said that First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities face a higher risk of “severe outcomes” because of COVID-19, given health inequities, higher rates of underlying medical conditions and challenges of remote locations.
The Prime Minister also announced $270-million on Friday to supplement an on-reserve income assistance program, and $44.8-million over the next five years to build 12 new shelters for Indigenous women and girls fleeing violence.
Ottawa said the funding will help build 10 shelters in First Nations to support Indigenous women and children, and that it will provide $40.8-million for operational costs of these shelters over the next five years.
Earlier this week, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett confirmed that a national action plan in response to the government-funded inquiry on causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls will not be released in June as planned.
The increase in funding announced on Friday to build shelters and additional support for Indigenous women and girls fleeing violence are part of the response to the report, Mr. Miller said.
Previously, the federal government announced a $305-million Indigenous community support fund in response to COVID-19 as well as $75-million for communities and organizations working with Indigenous people living in urban centres and off-reserve.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who is also his party’s Indigenous Services critic, and Conservative Indigenous Services critic Gary Vidal both welcomed the investments but criticized the length of time it took for the funding to be announced.
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