I’d like to talk today about the substantial challenges being faced by First Nations and Indigenous communities in Ontario. Many of these are chronic issues which have become especially pronounced during this crisis.
First Nations and Indigenous communities are facing overcrowding in substandard homes, life under multiple boil water advisories, and health care systems with a chronic shortage of nurses and doctors in clinics. All of this, while having a population with many trauma, health and mental health vulnerabilities creates stress on these communities which is untenable. Public Health advisories to wash your hands are not helpful for those who don’t have running water. Self-isolating is hard when your home is overcrowded to begin with. These are the realities in First Nations and Indigenous communities across our province.
COVID-19 has also increased the risk of violence against Indigenous women and girls, according to consultations conducted by the Native Women’s Association of Canada. There is an alarming spike in the number of Indigenous women who have reported violent attacks since the beginning of the pandemic, often by an intimate partner. These are the intersections which our government’s response must consider in supporting Indigenous communities through this crisis.
We also know that First Nations and Indigenous communities are not receiving enough personal protective equipment (PPE) from provincial and federal health authorities to properly protect community members from COVID-19. As we have already seen reports of on-reserve outbreaks across the country, this is unacceptable. The systematic neglect of First Nations and Indigenous communities by our governments has created a dangerous and unjust situation for their community members. We must do better. If you are looking for immediate support, the Yellowhead Institute and Indigenous Climate Action have created great lists of resources.
I have included updates on testing, public transit, OSAP, and COVID-19 research below.
As always, wash your hands, stay home if you can, wear a mask when needed, be kind. We are all in this together.