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‘Inadequate’ COVID-19 funding focus of new court challenge by Indigenous group

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An national Indigenous organization that represents First Nations, Inuit and Métis living off-reserve and in urban centres is taking the federal government to court over what it alleges is “inadequate and discriminatory funding” for the COVID-19 response.

The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples has filed an application in the Federal Court of Canada, challenging the funding allocation of $250,000 it received as part of a COVID-19 fund earmarked for off-reserve Indigenous peoples.

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The national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, Robert Bertrand, says the funding allocation contravenes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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The federal government pledged $305 million to help First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, with $15 million of this money set aside for organizations providing services to those living off reserves or in urban centres.

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Earlier this month, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller acknowledged the $15 million was not enough, as his department received far more applications to this fund than the 94 proposals that have been approved.

Bertrand says the lack of more funding has made it impossible for his organization to provide meaningful relief to the thousands of off-reserve Indigenous peoples it actively supports.