Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald is shown at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Tuesday, June 4, 2019. The Assembly of First Nations is planning to urge the federal Liberal government to do more to deal with the disproportionate impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on their communities in a virtual version of its annual general assembly. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald is shown at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Tuesday, June 4, 2019. The Assembly of First Nations is planning to urge the federal Liberal government to do more to deal with the disproportionate impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on their communities in a virtual version of its annual general assembly. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

Canada ‘must build back better’ for Indigenous people after COVID-19: Bellegarde

The COVID-19 pandemic risks making the socio-economic inequity for First Nations worse than before.

Canada must invest in closing the gap for Indigenous people as it emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the outgoing head of the Assembly of First Nations said Tuesday.

“That gap amplifies every threat and every harm from this pandemic, from the risk of infection to the stress of lockdown,” National Chief Perry Bellegarde said in remarks to the virtual general assembly of the national political advocacy organization he has led since 2014.

“It is a riff that is both deep and wide. And it’s been carved by decades and centuries of racism, discrimination and indifference.”

It also denies Indigenous people access to quality health care and forces families to live in overcrowded and unhealthy homes, he added, which is one way the COVID-19 pandemic risks making the socio-economic inequity for First Nations worse than before.

He also said reconciliation will not happen without a transformational change to keep Indigenous people safe, guarantee a better future for their children and protect the environment.

“We must try to replace fear and distrust with a common purpose to build a better, stronger, and more resilient and a more tolerant Canada,” he said.

Bellegarde, who announced Monday he is not seeking re-election next year, says he wants to focus on advocating for Indigenous people at this critical time.

“Our team at the AFN will continue to advocate for access to the resources or communities that they all need to manage this crisis,” he said.

The election to name a new national chief will be held virtually and in Toronto next July.

The AFN is planning to urge the federal Liberal government to do more to deal with the disproportionate impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on their communities at the virtual version of its annual general assembly this week.

Chiefs are also set to discuss, among other things, whether they will support legislation the Liberal government introduced this week that would ensure Canadian law is in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

READ MORE: Liberals table bill to implement UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald says the pandemic has hit First Nations communities hard, but they have also long dealt with inequitable treatment in Canada.

She says Canada has an opportunity to take big steps toward improving the situation through programs, services and funding as the country rebuilds its economy.

“Chronic underfunding of First Nations is … very evident when you look at First Nations health status right now and why we have such high rates of COVID-19,” she said.

Later Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to address the general assembly, which was originally scheduled to take place in Halifax this summer but put off due to COVID-19.

Yukon Regional Chief Kluane Adamek says some Indigenous communities don’t have broadband internet and they will have to call in by phone to participate in the meeting.

“This is the first time we’re doing this, so there’s no doubt that there’s going to be some challenges and glitches,” she said.

She says one resolution calls to end gender-based discrimination within the AFN, which represents more than 600 First Nations in Canada, to help the group lead the way in advancing gender equity.

The organization is expected to create a First Nations veterans council to promote the recognition of contributions of First Nations military and RCMP veterans in Canada through education and to develop and maintain a database of First Nations veterans.

———

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusIndigenous

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Coun. Niall Paltiel of Central Saanich has filed a notice of motion directing staff to work with the WSANEC leadership council to develop a program leading toward the “gradual incorporation of traditional WSANEC names for key collector and arterial roads”(Black Press Media File)
Central Saanich councillor wants road signs to use WSANEC names

Coun. Niall Paltiel proposes ‘gradual incorporation of traditional WSANEC names’ for key roads

Royal Roads University president Philip Steenkamp said they are aware of hateful graffiti spray-painted in an area of the forest surrounding the campus. The graffiti in question includes anti-Semitic content and a racial slur towards Black people. (Facebook/Royal Roads University)
Anti-Semitic, hateful graffiti spotted in forest near Royal Roads University

Royal Roads working with West Shore RCMP to remove graffiti “as soon as possible”

A cougar was spotted at Royal Roads University on Sunday, Jan. 24. The sighting was reported on the western edge of the campus. (File photo)
Cougar spotted at Royal Roads University Sunday afternoon

Animal reported on western side of campus near Colwood Fire Department

Saanich-based St. Luke’s Players community theatre company has been making the most of their opportunities to keep busy during the pandemic, including staging a Christmastime panto of Alice in Wonderland on Zoom. (Courtesy St. Luke’s Players)
Saanich’s St. Luke’s Players: Bringing the stage to the people

Community theatre company holding online auditions Jan. 23-24 for March production

Frank Bourree was awarded the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce’s first Governors’ Award of Distinction for his leadership in the business community. (Courtesy of Frank Bourree)
Frank Bourree receives award of distinction from Victoria chamber

Award recognizes positive role model in business community

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

The sky above Mt. Benson in Nanaimo is illuminated by flares as search and rescuers help an injured hiker down the mountain to a waiting ambulance. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Search and Rescue)
Search plane lights up Nanaimo mountain with flares during icy rope rescue

Rescuers got injured hiker down Mt. Benson to a waiting ambulance Saturday night

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive, all on the same floor

Most Read