As of Friday, May 8th Indigenous Services Canada reported 165 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in First Nations communities on reserve.
Canada’s Minister of Indigenous Services gave the update, pointing to an integral flaw in the data collection relating to the Indigenous population. Marc Miller clearly stated that the data his department provides is limited by what is being collected. That means accurate data is only available for First Nations living on reserve and for Inuit living in Inuit Nunangat.
Miller then shifted to the numbers in the far north where in La Loche, Northern Saskatchewan, the number of positive cases is over 170, including 16 on reserve Indigenous positive cases. But given that La Loche is a Metis-Dene community of the overwhelming majority, Miller says the presumption is that the entire 179 cases or so are indigenous. When you put that in an urban context such as Montreal or Toronto and Vancouver, Calgary or Winnipeg, Miller says that data is just not there.
As a result, ISC is providing $250,000 to the work of Dr. Janice Smiley, Metis Research Scientist and Physician at the Centre of Urban Health Solutions at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.
Dr. Smiley is currently working with partners to collect necessary data that will allow for better understanding and modelling of COVID-19 cases in Indigenous populations in Canada. Miller says this project will include the development of a COVID-19 Consortium made up of provincial and territorial First Nations, Inuit and Metis partners.