More COVID-19 aid, PPE needed for First Nations and Metis, leaders say

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OTTAWA — First Nations and Metis leaders say they need more from Ottawa to combat COVID-19 in their communities, including money, assistance with security and help acquiring protective equipment.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde says money earmarked for First Nations for COVID-19 response so far is not proportional to the populations in their communities and more financial help will be needed.

He is calling on Ottawa to immediately make available 10 per cent of the future funding that will be allocated to Indigenous COVID-19 response to help First Nations deal with the health and social impacts of the pandemic.

Bellegarde also says First Nations must be part of all decision-making when it comes to deciding how resources are allocated — something he says is not happening now.

Metis National Council vice-president David Chartrand said he’s been forced to order personal protective equipment like masks and hand sanitizer directly from China himself because Metis communities have not received any of these supplies due to a squabble over who is responsible for this aid to Metis — the provinces or the federal government.

Chief Ghislain Picard from the Assembly of First Nations’ Quebec-Labrador branch said Quebec First Nations also need more protective gear and also have concerns about public safety in the midst of the pandemic.

Picard said many First Nations in Quebec don’t have their own policing services, and they are calling for access to private security agencies or the Canadian Rangers to support local security efforts.