Submitted by: Indigenous Relations Committee
Throughout Ontario, Indigenous communities have been fighting for their human rights while working to overcome the lasting effects of colonization. This, combined with institutionalized racism, has led to poverty and health issues within Indigenous communities. Indigenous peoples in Ontario have the highest rates of diabetes and suicide, as well as poorer living conditions, an unstable food supply, and many Indigenous communities lack access to clean drinking water. With the emergence of COVID-19, communities are facing a pandemic that could potentially decimate Elders, who have been the knowledge keepers since time immemorial.
The majority of Indigenous community members live in overcrowded living conditions, without access to clean water, making handwashing and physical distancing impossible. Many Indigenous communities in Ontario have been operating under continuous boil water advisories for decades. In addition to limited access to clean water, many communities have intermittent access to adequate healthcare services. Compounding this issue in Northern Ontario is limited access to food and personal hygiene supplies. COVID-19 could potentially accelerate into the communities of the most vulnerable, and there would be little available support to contain the spread of the virus.
The Government of Canada has committed funding to Indigenous communities to assist with increasing health care, water, and housing infrastructure to ease some of the concerns raised surrounding the pandemic. However, the Major Aboriginal Organizations (MAOs) have indicated additional funds are required. While this is a positive step towards reconciliation, we must recognize that in this digital age, increasing funding and availability for essential services must also include telecommunication. Many Indigenous communities are currently without adequate or stable internet access, making online schooling, virtual doctors' appointments, small businesses operations and staying connected with friends and family all challenging, if not impossible.
To do our part in facing these challenges, the Society's Indigenous Relations Committee will focus on providing support to Indigenous social and food security services. Donations have been made to the following Indigenous organizations: Omushkegiskwew House/Moosonee Family Resource Center (donation forthcoming), Atlohsa Family Healing Centre (London), Gathering of Rivers for Community Care – (Thunder Bay), and ENAGB a youth shelter/services (Toronto).
The Society’s Indigenous Relations Committee sends a heartfelt thank you to all of our members who are working tirelessly to ensure Ontario's most vulnerable communities have access to the services, utilities and the supports they need. Know that your work is recognized. Chi-miigwetch!