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

A Nanaimo man will serve nine months in jail for the sexual assault of a young girl he admitted to having committed more than 40 years ago. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo man sentenced for sexually abusing girl more than 40 years ago

Man, now 71, gets nine-month sentence for abuse of friend’s daughter

A youth was arrested following a car crash on Wallace Street on Saturday, April 10. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo teen arrested a day after allegedly assaulting and bullying victim

Teen taken into custody after wielding weapon and threatening driver at scene of car crash

‘We Are All Beautiful’ by Elise Cole and ‘The Modern Thrall’ by Enigye (Happy) Amarkah (from left) are two of the pieces featured in VIU’s Anti-Racism Arts Festival. (Images courtesy the artists)
Vancouver Island University holds first Anti-Racism Arts Festival

Three-day online event to feature visual arts, performance, film and poetry

Killer whales surface near Sebastion Beach in Lantzville on Sunday, April 11. (Photo courtesy Ella Smiley)
Orcas near the beach thrill whale watchers in Lantzville

Jagged-finned orca named Chainsaw and 17 others spent hours off Sebastion Beach this weekend

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ district administration centre. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district gets started on new budget amid unknowns

Ministry’s per-student funding increase doesn’t fully cover pay raises for teachers and support staff

Killer whales surface near Sebastion Beach in Lantzville on Sunday, April 11. (Photo courtesy Ella Smiley)
Orcas near the beach thrill whale watchers in Lantzville

Jagged-finned orca named Chainsaw and 17 others spent hours off Sebastion Beach this weekend

In Ontario, COVID-19 vaccine clinics have been set up at local mosques. (Submitted photo: Rufaida Mohammed)
Getting the vaccine does not break your fast, says Muslim COVID-19 task force

Muslim community ‘strongly’ encouraging people to get their shot, whether or not during Ramadan

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Police: mental health crisis likely in car driven through Saanich Walmart wall

Man in his early 20s drove through a parkade wall, no serious injuries reported

A plane is seen through the window on the tarmac of Vancouver International Airport as the waiting room is empty. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
100+ international travellers who landed in B.C. refused to quarantine

The Public Health Agency of Canada says it issued $3,000 violation tickets to each

A health-care worker holds up a vial of the AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Montreal, Thursday, March 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
PHAC receives first report of blood clot linked to AstraZeneca

The federal agency says the person is now recovering at home

The Campbell River Gun Club outdoor range is located on Argonaut Road west of Campbell River. CRGC/Facebook photo
Campbell River Gun Club range shut down after complaints of stray bullets

Neighbour says bullets hit caretaker’s RV and shattered a glass panel on his deck

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve’s Green Point Campground saw an unprecedented flurry of reservations last week. (Pacific Rim National Park Reserve photo)
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve campground sees ‘unprecedented’ interest

Reservations being accepted as Green Point Campground scheduled to open May 1

Restaurant owners Oura and Kymon Giakoumakis visit the PQB News/VI Free Daily studio. (Peter McCully photo)
PODCAST: COVID-19 pandemic hits Island’s food service industry hard

Pair of Vancouver Island restaurant owners share thoughts and advice

A real estate sign is pictured in Vancouver, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS Jonathan Hayward
1 in 3 young Canadians have given up on owning a home: poll

Data released Monday says 36% of adults younger than 40 have given up on home ownership entirely

Most Read