Urgent resources for COVID-19 in Indigenous Communities

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Michael Blashill
Michael Blashill signed this petition

Dear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Health Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, Minister Dan Vandal, Dr. Tom Wong, Indigenous Services, 
 
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 initial 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. While there have been additional investments made for Indigenous communities many Indigenous leaders and health organizations are calling for more assistance and supplies.    
 
Through this petition we want the Federal Government to urgently implement suggestions from our community leaders. 
  
Our current suggestions include:
1. We recognized UNDRIP and the rights of Indigenous peoples to protect themselves from COVID-19 in the most effective way possible. This includes the restrictions of travel into regions populated by self-governed Indigenous communities. Any eventual lifting of such restrictions would require the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous communities involved.
 
3.     Urgently enhance Healthcare capacity in the communities. Most Indigenous communities have chronically under-sourced for healthcare. There must be surge capacity to help communities under the direction of the community Indigenous leaders.  
 
The surge capacity may consist of increased health care staff at Indigenous Services, physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners. In addition, if a community is in an outbreak, respiratory therapists, may be required.  
A roster of other individuals outside of Indigenous Services to help with surge capacity should be created including: Canadian physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists, EMS, logisticians, public health specialists.  
Other groups that could help with surge capacity include: The Canadian Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders.  
Health care providers in the Canadian Forces, under the direction of the community leadership. 
Many Manitoba Chiefs have requested that Cuban doctors be fast-tracked to assist the communities. Please provide the necessary equipment to the communities now. 
3.     Enhanced Testing and outbreak control  
a.     Rapid COVID-19 test kits need to be prioritized for Indigenous communities, especially for communities 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, PPE.  
c.      Cloth masks should be distributed now to the community. 
d. Ventilators should be sent to communities with the healthcare providers who are able to manage the machines, including physicians, respiratory therapists or EMS.  
e.     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.  
 
4. Covid-19 has highlighted the inequities in Canadian society, disproportionately attacking vulnerable populations. While many Indigenous communities have managed to prevent catastrophic outbreaks through restricting access to the communities, this is a temporary solution. The situation of Covid-19 among the Navajo reminds us of the vulnerabilities of Indigenous peoples in Canada. We must work toward improving the determinants of health such as food, water, housing security as a human rights issue.  
We support UNDRIP 4.2 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states: “Indigenous individuals have an equal right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. States shall take the necessary steps with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of this right."
 
In the time of COVID-19 we affirm that the protection of the health Indigenous communities is of the highest priority, and must be assured before recreational and non-essential economic activities are expanded in territories which put Indigenous people’s at risk for COVID-19.
This includes the restrictions of travel into regions populated by self-governed Indigenous communities. Any eventual lifting of such restrictions would require the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous communities involved.
 
Sincerely, 
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
Allison Deer, Bimaadzwin, Senior Projects Advisor
Bryan Hendry, Bimaadzwin, Director of Marketing and Communications
Angela DeMontigny, Cree/Metis designer 
Kevin Sandy, President Iroquois Lacrosse Program 
Rodney Haring, Director Centre for Indigenous Cancer Research