By Breanne Massey
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Some Indigenous communities have embraced support for COVID-19 vaccines, while others have responded with reluctance.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller recently announced a $1.2 billion investment for public health, which includes support in the Indigenous Community Support Fund and Supportive Care for long-term care and elder care facilities after a request from the Assembly of First Nation (AFN) Chief Perry Bellegarde urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take action to protect Indigenous communities across the nation.

“First Nations, Inuit, and Métis have worked diligently to prevent, respond and control the spread of the virus in their communities,” said Miller in a recent press release. “We acknowledge their strength and resilience, and the hard work they continue to put into leading their communities to safety. Through these investments, we will continue to support community-led solutions, and to ensure a strong and multi-faceted pandemic response.”

The Government of Canada has invested over $1 billion in the Indigenous Community Support Fund, which is expected to promote food security, distribution of emergency equipment and improving mental health support services.

Currently, there has been roughly $4 billion in COVID-19 funding made available from the Government of Canada for Indigenous communities and organizations to support families and individuals since the global pandemic began.

However, AFN chief Bellegarde did not respond to the Pioneer’s request for comment regarding the skepticism of the overall safety of COVID-19 vaccines raised by some Indigenous communities. However, the AFN team recently issued a statement encouraging others to make the most of the investment rolled out by the Trudeau government in early-January.

“Keeping our people and nations safe remains top priority, particularly at a time when infection rates are rising and risk getting completely out of control,” said Bellegarde in a recent press release, adding that First Nations communities are “disproportionately impacted by the pandemic” and require resources to meet needs exacerbated by remoteness, crowded homes and lack of clean water.

“I lift up First Nations leadership across the country for speaking up. Our voices have been heard. We will save lives.”

Chief Bellgegarde’s statement indicated that he plans to take the vaccine as soon as it’s available to him.

“Just like wearing a mask, getting the vaccine is about keeping you and those around you safe,” Bellegarde said in a recent press release. “If you don’t plan to do it for yourself, please consider doing it for your family, friends and community. Together we’ll conquer COVID-19.”