Ottawa advocating to prioritize vaccines for Indigenous people: Miller


OTTAWA — Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says Ottawa is working with the provinces to prioritize vaccinating Indigenous people against COVID-19.

Miller told a news conference in Ottawa Wednesday that there is a need to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to Indigenous people living both on reserves and in urban centres.

He said he has been concerned that the federal government is not able to vaccinate Indigenous people living off-reserve, where the provinces provide heath services.

“This is the case with respect to Métis populations,” Miller said, noting that that’s also the case for First Nations people living off reserves and Inuit people.

“This is a particularly acute issue and challenge when we’re talking about the deployment of the vaccine,” he said.

He said Ottawa is doing “quiet work” with the provinces to prioritize vaccinating Indigenous people living off-reserve.

“We need participation of the provinces to ensure that needles get into the arms of people that are the most vulnerable,” he said.

He said the government is focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care facilities and essential workers but other vulnerable Indigenous groups will get the COVID-19 vaccine next.

Miller said the role of the federal government is to provide resources to the provinces to help in delivering COVID-19 vaccines to Indigenous people.

“The role of the federal government, in my mind, is to offer our assets, offer our co-operation our resources, our logistical capacities”

In a news release Wednesday, Indigenous Services Canada said there have been 89 COVID-19 cases and nine deaths in long-term care homes in Indigenous communities on reserves.

The number of COVID-19 active cases in First Nations communities reached an all-time high this week with 5,571 reported cases as of Tuesday.

The department said COVID-19 vaccine rollouts have already started in 169 Indigenous communities in all provinces and territories except Nova Scotia and P.E.I.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021.