COVID-19 in Indigenous communities: what you need to know this week

The number of people in First Nations communities recovering from the coronavirus has exceeded newly reported cases for the second week in a row, according to the latest data from Indigenous Services Canada.

The federal department said the number of active cases in First Nations communities has declined to the lowest point since Dec. 6 with 1,834 active cases reported as of Feb. 9.

The Canadian Armed Forces were deployed to a number of communities experiencing outbreaks, including Pauingassi First Nation in Manitoba after a quarter of the people in the community contracted the virus. The military has also been assisting in Fort Nelson First Nation in B.C., Ginoogaming First Nation, Ont., Hatchet Lake, Sask. and Garden Hill, Man.

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces arrived in Pauingassi First Nation on Saturday to assist with a COVID-19 outbreak 2:07

Since the pandemic began, there have been a total of 18,241 cases on-reserve. Twenty-four people have died from the virus since last week, bringing the toll to 190. The total number of hospitalizations rose to 828. The number of First Nations people reported as recovered from the disease is now at 16,217.

Total cases in First Nations communities per region reported as of Feb. 9:

  • British Columbia: 1,995
  • Alberta: 5,411
  • Saskatchewan: 4,924
  • Manitoba: 4,764
  • Ontario: 607
  • Quebec: 530
  • Atlantic: 10

Vaccination efforts

As of Feb. 5, there have been 344 Indigenous communities with vaccination campaigns underway but the federal government is unclear how Moderna vaccine shortages will affect the rate of inoculations for Indigenous people.

Alberta: Kehewin Cree Nation in Alberta received 100 doses of Moderna, marking the beginning of its distribution with a ceremony Monday that centred on the nation’s oldest members.

Masked Kehewin Cree Nation elders pray at a ceremony marking the arrival of COVID-19 vaccine in the northern Alberta community on Feb. 8. Kehewin council member Greyeagle Cardinal looks on from behind plexiglass. (Jodi Cardinal)

Manitoba: First Nations are working with the province to decide how vaccine supplies get allocated, both on- and off-reserve. Traditional healers and knowledge keepers living off reserve can start booking their shots.

Quebec: Several First Nations in the province will begin vaccinating their members against COVID-19 in February — if vaccine supplies are available. The First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission said there’s been ongoing discussions between communities, provincial health agencies, and Indigenous Services Canada to prepare vaccination sites including in Gesgapegiag and Kahnawake.

However, some Cree living outside the jurisdictional Cree health board boundaries in northern Quebec say they feel worse than second-class citizens when it comes to getting access to a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Marc Miller speaks to the impact delays are having on the campaign to vaccinate members of Indigenous communities. 2:48  

What are the symptoms of COVID-19? 

  • new or worsening cough
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • temperature equal to or over 38°C
  • feeling feverish
  • chills
  • fatigue or weakness
  • muscle or body aches
  • new loss of smell or taste
  • headache
  • gastrointestinal symptoms (abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting)
  • feeling very unwell

If you think you may have COVID-19, please consult your local health department to book an appointment at a screening clinic. 

CBC Indigenous is looking to hear from First Nations, Métis, and Inuit who have contracted or lost a love one to COVID-19. If you would like to share your story, please email us at

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