WINNIPEG — Canada’s Minister of Indigenous Services says federal dollars are in the budget to help First Nations amid the pandemic, as more than 100 members of the Canadian Armed Forces continue to help the vaccine rollout on northern Manitoba First Nations.
In a virtual news conference with Manitoba Grand Chiefs on Friday, Minister Marc Miller said the federal budget released on Monday proposes an additional $1.2 billion in 2021/22 to help Indigenous communities deal with COVID-19.
“These are funds that are dedicated to Indigenous communities who know how to best protect their own people,” Miller said.
While Miller said some of the money is specifically targeted at medical responses and surge support, he said the funding is flexible to allow communities to respond to their own needs.
He did not say how much of the funding is earmarked for Manitoba Indigenous communities.
MILITARY HELPING VACCINE ROLLOUT IN FIRST NATIONS
“Right now under Operation Vector, we have over 100 Canadian Forces members including Canadian Rangers, hard at work in northern Manitoba,” said Canada’s Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan.
“These are tough times, but I’m inspired by the resilience of the Indigenous communities, and by the bravery of our women and men in uniform.”
Taskforce Aurora was deployed on March 26 to the Thompson hub, and has been helping to administer vaccines to community members.
Major Scott Youngson, the acting commanding officer of the taskforce, said about 120 military personnel are running the Thompson hub. He said the taskforce has gained momentum over the past month and has supported four communities last week and three this week.
Grand Chief Garrison Settee of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak said the rollout of the vaccine has been phenomenal.
“It has not been perfect, but nothing is ever perfect. But what we can say is that our people now have hope because of the phenomenal vaccination rollout, with the help of the Royal Canadian Armed Forces,” Settee said.
“I’m so thankful today that I can see that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
According to provincial data, 42,706 vaccine doses have been administered to First Nations people living in Manitoba as of Thursday. More than 73 per cent of these doses were administered to people living on reserves.
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