The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated that Indigenous groups in Canada provided stable support to their communities throughout the pandemic, in spite of the gaps in programs and services from federal, provincial, and municipal governments. Many urban Indigenous coalitions and their member organizations undertook initiatives in and around their communities to fill those gaps. Overall, urban Indigenous organizations in all provinces and territories are underfunded. While demand for services was needed even before the pandemic, “there has been little or no increase in government funding to organizations” and “demand has also exceeded available funding to support urban Indigenous people during the Covid-19 pandemic” (Collier, 2020).
Culture at the Heart of Healing
Indigenous groups provided front-line support for their communities to slow the spread, including managing disinfection and cleaning services and operating emergency shelters and vaccination clinics. Indigenous-led and operated vaccination clinics through the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, were highly effective, and a credit to their ability to provide familiarity and safety to their people (Winnipeg Indigenous Executive Circle, 2022). Culture continues to be one of the most important connections for supporting healing — not just since the beginning of the pandemic health crisis, but as one of the most significant ways Indigenous Peoples have survived hundreds of years of colonialism, injustice and racism. Cultural initiatives included bringing some traditionally in-person activities to virtual venues.