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“What concerns me is the uptick in cases,” : Federal Minister of Indigenous Services

Federal Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller believes Indigenous communities have fared better than their counterparts during the first six months of COVID-19.

However, he says the fall and winter months are not a time to let up.

In an exclusive interview with Vista Radio, Miller stated a potential second wave could be detrimental.

“What concerns me in the last couple of days, couple weeks, is really the uptick we see in the rest of Canada and the real threat to Indigenous communities of seeing this spread within their communities.”

“What we have seen in the last little while are clusters appearing without judging a drop in vigilance because economies are opening-up and we are moving from more of a hammer approach to a more surgical-risk management philosophy.”

According to Indigenous Services Canada, 627 on-reserve cases have been reported as of yesterday (Tuesday) including 137 in BC.

This is second-most among the western provinces trailing only Alberta who has 273 on-reserve cases of the virus.

Miller explained how vigilant these communities were during the peak of the pandemic.

“The first wave was one where we saw Indigenous communities taking on reserve and remote communities really rally and put into place a very successful model of snapping out the spread of COVID due to a system tracking and tracing or shutting down communities, which is a very difficult thing to do.”

In Northern Health an outbreak of the virus was declared on Haida Gwaii, where a total of 26 cases were reported that required either hospitalization or self-isolation.

It was declared over by the health authority on August 28th, after the last reported case occurred three weeks earlier (August 6th).

In addition, the alarming amount of illicit drug deaths among the Indigenous population during COVID-19 hasn’t gone unnoticed by Miller.

According to the First Nations Health Authority, 16% of all people who died from an overdose in BC between January and May were Indigenous.

He added while the pandemic is going on, the issue of substance abuse isn’t flying under the radar.

“That is something I am very preoccupied with because it is something that is very much a hidden second epidemic in terms of how mental health has impacted communities with the acute expression of which, include substance use and abuse along with other mental health distress.”

Earlier this year, the federal government invested 82.5 million dollars in mental health and wellness supports to assist Indigenous communities during COVID-19.

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