Politics
Auditor General assesses Ottawa’s performance on PPE and pandemic response in Indigenous communities

Auditor General assesses Ottawa’s performance on PPE and pandemic response in Indigenous communities

The Auditor General of Canada today releases audits of the federal government’s performance in securing personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical devices before and during the pandemic, and its response to COVID-19 in communities indigenous.

Auditor General Karen Hogan will table the reports this afternoon and then answer questions from reporters at 3 p.m. ET.

The reports will focus on how the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada have responded to the needs of provincial and territorial governments for N95 masks, medical gowns, test swabs and respirators, and on the whether Indigenous Services Canada provided sufficient assistance to First Nations. , Inuit and Métis communities.

“They have done a decent job of providing support to our member countries, making sure there is an adequate supply of PPE, and making us a vaccine priority,” the vice chief said. David Pratt of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents 74 Saskatchewan First Nations.

More than 70% of First Nations adults have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. As of Sunday, there were 774 cases and 334 deaths on reserves.

VIO volunteers, a non-profit charitable organization, was created in the spring of 2020 to serve the needs of remote Indigenous communities in northern Canada.

It has since delivered just over 1.7 million surgical masks, 9,450 face shields and 7,662 liters of hand sanitizer to 206 Indigenous communities and organizations that support the urban Indigenous population in seven provinces.

In a written question tabled in the House of Commons last fall, Conservative Indigenous Services spokesperson Gary Vidal asked for details on the amount of PPE delivered by the department.

When VIO Volunteers president Claudine Santos compared the list to her records, she said, she realized her charity was overtaking the government by providing masks to communities – in some cases doubling the contribution federal.

‘We didn’t ask to see the math’

Santos, who worked as director of parliamentary affairs in Conservative Senator Dennis Patterson’s office in Nunavut, said she believed it was because VIO Volunteers took a different approach to demands from Indigenous communities than the bureaucracy used. .

“We didn’t ask to see the calculations,” Santos said. “They came to us and they said, ‘This is what we need’. We said, ‘If it is in our power to give it to you, we will give it to you.’ “

In some cases, Santos said, the charity has stored enough masks to supply communities for six months to a year.

“It’s not fair that we impose our own algorithms and our own standards on these communities,” Santos said.

Auditor General Karen Hogan will table two audits on Ottawa’s response to COVID-19 on Wednesday. (Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press)

“We really need to understand the fact that they are led by strong and capable people who know and understand intimately the type of needs of their communities.”

Santos said there needs to be a change in the relationship between indigenous communities and the federal government to allow them to make their own decisions.

She said VIO Volunteers is making room for Indigenous-led organizations, such as the Indigenous Peoples Resilience Fund, to support PPE requests.

Santos also said the government must take responsibility for ensuring communities are protected from predatory practices employed by some companies seeking to profit.

“This is what happens when there isn’t enough conversation and there isn’t enough support,” Santos said.

The Department of Indigenous Services, Marc Miller, is the subject of one of the Auditor General’s performance reviews. (Sean Kilpatrick / Canadian Press)

In a statement to CBC News, the office of Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said its top priority has been the health, safety and well-being of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people since the beginning of the pandemic.

He set aside more than $ 4.2 billion to help Indigenous communities prevent and fight COVID-19, and pledged an additional $ 1.2 billion in the spring federal budget.

The government also pledged $ 354 million over five years in the budget to increase the number of nurses and other health professionals in remote and isolated First Nations.

The Ministry acknowledged that it had “learned lessons that will inform the Ministry’s ongoing response efforts and better prepare for a future pandemic.”

“Indigenous Services Canada is committed to continuing and improving our work, in full partnership with our Indigenous partners.

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