Indigenous Services Canada to provide aid for Ontario First Nation facing 'severe' COVID-19 outbreak
Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu has announced $483,000 in funding for resources to support a remote First Nation community in Northern Ontario that is suffering a COVID-19 outbreak.
"To support Bearskin Lake First Nation in their state of emergency and severe COVID outbreak, [Indigenous Services Canada] has approved $483,000 for a number of resources in addition to other supports that have been coordinated in the past month,” Hajdu tweeted Sunday evening.
She added that the funding will go towards “food security, PPE, funding for local community COVID workers, and supplies like wood cutting and collection, as requested by the community.”
Bearskin Lake First Nation is a fly-in community located around 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay that currently has 149 cases of COVID-19 — a third of their total population.
They announced a state of emergency in late December over the outbreak, and Grand Chief Derek Fox of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which represents 49 First Nations including Bearskin Lake, appeared on CTV News Channel on Saturday to call on federal and provincial governments to provide aid.
“We are extremely unique because we don't have that health-care system to support should someone get extremely sick," he said.
"There's extreme concern should an emergency break out, should someone need to be transported, should someone be at that point where they might lose their life and they're pretty much on their own.”
According to a longer statement attached by Hajdu, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) has mobilized a Rapid Response Team out of Thunder Bay to assist Bearskin Lake, including a device for molecular testing.
Hajdu said ISC is also working with the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority, Windigo Mental Health and the local public health unit to provide support, including nurses for surge capacity.
With files from CTVNews.ca's Michael Lee