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

The rocks are painted and then hidden around town. Those who find them can keep them, leave them where they are or hide them elsewhere. (Submitted)
Spreading love and kindness in Nakusp

New group launched to nurture rock painting and hunting community

The Okanagan Regional Library is holding a pair of online contests for its young readers. (File photo)
Okanagan Regional Library challenges young readers

Pair of contests online aimed at kids aged up to 18

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 health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Auldin Maxwell stacks the 693rd block on the top of record-breaking Jenga tower on Nov. 29. (Submitted)
Salmon Arm boy rests world-record attempt on single Jenga brick

Auldin Maxwell, 12, is now officially a Guinness world record holder.

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

Kelowna Fire Department. (FILE)
Early morning downtown Kelowna dumpster fire deemed suspicious

RCMP and the Kelowna Fire Department will conduct investigations into the cause of the blaze

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

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

Most Read