Canada: New interactive project explores COVID-19 solutions in Indigenous communities

OTTAWA – As COVID-19 restrictions begin to relax across Canada, remote and Indigenous communities are developing their own solutions specific to their needs and concerns.  

As Amnesty International highlights in a new interactive project, Building Immunity in Community, different communities face different threats and challenges and they are developing effective solutions based on the needs of the people and the resources at hand. Many communities need better healthcare equipment and services, many have concerns about over-crowded housing, and other people are checking in with elders, sharing food and traditional medicines, and creating emergency plans. 

“No two communities are the same – and Indigenous communities know what’s best for themselves,” said Ana Collins, Indigenous Rights Advisor with Amnesty International Canada. “Culture, governance, location, and history all shape how a community experiences this pandemic, but there are some shared concerns as well as solutions.” 

For example, in the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in Ontario, chief and council declared a state of emergency in the territory in early March, declaring that the community did not have adequate resources to slow the spread of the virus and that existing healthcare infrastructure would not be able to handle potentially large numbers of people in need of hospitalization. Community members were asked to self-isolate and remain within the territory. 

In Tsuut’ina Nation in Alberta, the community’s emergency response team has enforced a curfew and developed clear communications through social media and text messages to keep members informed and aware of COVID-19 symptoms and safe health practices. The community has not decided to close its borders as others have done. 

Ana Collins further noted that “in a time of crisis and pandemic, recognition of and respect for the sovereignty of an Indigenous nation is paramount to ensuring the well-being of a people. The ability of Indigenous peoples to be culturally well is reliant on the freedom they have to make decisions for the community, as a community.” 

“Human rights are an important part of an effective public health strategy and Indigenous rights are a holistic body of rights and responsibilities that build connections between people.” 

Amnesty International is inviting the public to explore the map, watch the short videos, read the histories, and background information, and hear directly from people who know their needs and communities best.  

For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact: Lucy Scholey, Media Relations, Amnesty International Canada (English branch),