Urgent resources for COVID-19 in Indigenous Communities

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Dear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Health Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller, and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan:
First Nations, Inuit,  and Métis, are among the most vulnerable Canadians and the least equipped to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. During the H1N1 crisis, Indigenous people were 6.5 times more likely to be admitted to the ICU. Many Indigenous communities experience poverty, overcrowding, food and water insecurity, and lack adequate access to healthcare and there is a higher rate of chronic disease. All of this increases risk of severe COVID-19

There are many Indigenous leaders who have the knowledge of the resources and deficits in the communities. While we recognize that one approach will not meet the needs of all communities, we believe urgent intervention will be needed NOW to avert catastrophic consequences to many communities.
The federal government’s pledge of $315 million in pandemic assistance for all Indigenous Canadians is less than one-per cent of the $82 billion in funding assistance for mainstream Canadians. This is simply unacceptable. Through this petition we want the Federal Government urgently implement suggestions from our community leaders.
Our current suggestions include:
1.     Urgently enhance Healthcare capacity in the communities:
a.     This includes asking Canadian healthcare providers to come to the communities to plan/prepare with the community leaders. 
b. There are already 5,000 members of the Canadian Rangers who are stationed in remote communities who could be mobilized. 
c. We urge you to begin the mobilization now of Canadian troops and reservists to be available to those Indigenous communities  who request  their assistance. They would be working under the under the community leadership. 
d. Many Manitoba Chiefs have requested that Cuban doctors be fast-tracked to assist the communities. This should be assessible to any community where there is doctor shortage. Preparations need to start now, given the quarantine period.
e. Other options include requesting support from the Canadian Red Cross or MSF.
f. Please provide the necessary equipment to the communities now.

2.     Enhanced Testing and outbreak control 
a.     Rapid COVID-19 test kits need to be sent immediately to Indigenous communities, and to prioritize those who are fly in or do not have rapid access to a critical care hospital.
b.     For all Indigenous communities to have access to hand sanitizer, medications. 
c.     Ventilators should be sent to communities that have the human resources to manage this. 
d.     Field hospitals and temporary housing are needed to separate potentially infected individuals from overcrowded homes prevalent in far too many communities. 
e.     Should there be an outbreak of COVID-19, there needs to be a plan to rapidly isolate community members who would be at high risk for severe illness including the elderly or those with chronic health issues. Hotels or temporary shelters or other facilities should be considered.  
f.      We must also ensure that during this outbreak that there is enough critical resources, such as food and clean water, cleaning supplies to manage the outbreak. 
All of this must be resourced and funded in an equitable way to all Indigenous communities at risk as soon as possible, and done in consultation with the Indigenous community experts and leaders. 

Isadore Day, CEO Bimaadzwin
Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild, Commissioner Truth and Reconciliation
Michele Audette, Commissioner MMIWG
Tony Belcourt, Founding President of the Métis Nation of Ontario
Dr. David Suzuki, Science broadcaster and environmental activist
Jesse Wente, Broadcaster, ED Indigenous Screen Office
Grand Chief Southern Chiefs Organization, Manitoba
Dr. Anna Banerji, Co-chair Indigenous Health Conference (IHC)
Michele-Elise Burnett President Kakekalanicks LTD, Co-chair IHC
Angela DeMontigny, Cree/Metis designer
Kevin Sandy, President Iroquois Lacrosse Program
Rodney Haring, Director Centre for Indigenous Cancer Research