The Assembly of First Nations declared a national state of emergency Tuesday over the COVID-19 pandemic and is calling for a boost in “resources and support to First Nations.”
In a news release, the AFN said the increased resources should be “based on needs and equity” and noted that funding to First Nations governments “cannot be on a proposal basis.”
“There also must be specific consideration for northern, remote and isolated communities,” the AFN said.
On Monday, the AFN’s executive committee passed the motion to declare a state of emergency. It says that First Nations leadership must “be fully and meaningfully involved at all decision-making tables in the development of all plans, legislation, policies, budget allocations and regulations regarding the COVID-19 pandemic federally and provincially.”
The AFN’s executive committee held an emergency meeting on Saturday to discuss the novel coronavirus crisis and the impact on its constituents.
“Federal, provincial and territorial governments have taken some action to assist First Nations but these are not sufficient to meet needs,” the AFN said Tuesday.
“More action is needed immediately.”
AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde said that in many cases, “First Nations are the most vulnerable because of their isolation.”
“They don’t have access to the same level of health care that everybody else does.”
On Wednesday, hundreds of Indigenous health managers from across the country will meet online to talk how to prepare and mitigate the effects of COVID-19 in their communities.
On Tuesday, The Canadian Press reported that an Indigenous Services Canada spokesperson confirmed the department has been notified of two cases on-reserve in Saskatchewan.
It was not clear if either of these have been confirmed as positive COVID-19 cases.
“The Government of Canada, provincial and territorial governments must begin to track infections in First Nations so that we know the daily status of COVID-19 and its impact on our communities,” the AFN said.
The AFN expressed support Tuesday for “those who have already declared states of emergencies and travel bans into and out of their First Nations.”
–With files from The Canadian Press’ Bob Weber
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials say the risk is low for Canadians but warn this could change quickly. They caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.
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