Federal government announces $650M for Indigenous communities

Justin Trudeau addresses the nation on March 16, 2020
Justin Trudeau addresses the nation on March 16, 2020.

The federal government said on Friday it would provide a further $650 million to Indigenous communities and programs across Canada, including the NWT, during the Covid-19 crisis.

Funding was announced in a news release from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office. The money will go toward communities’ healthcare, economic, and social needs.

“Covid-19 has further highlighted the unique challenges that already exist for Indigenous peoples and communities,” said Trudeau in the release.

“We are listening to Indigenous peoples and are working with them to ensure they have the support they need to get through this crisis.”



According to the federal government, the funds are divided based on needs identified in consultations between Ottawa and Indigenous groups and leaders.

The largest sum – $285.1 million – will go toward the Covid-19 response in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities.

Up to 160 temporary assessment, screening, and isolation units will be delivered to remote communities around the country, alongside medical supplies and equipment.

If communities experience a Covid-19 outbreak, the funds can be diverted to emergency care.



$270 million will be used to supplement the On-Reserve Income Assistance Program, which helps families living on reserves cover the costs of living. The NWT has two reserves held by the Kátł’odeeche First Nation and Salt River First Nation.

Some of that money will be used to hire additional program staff for services such as mental health and addictions counselling, and assistance in applying for government benefits such as employment insurance.

In the statement, Indigenous services minister Marc Miller said: “Today’s announcement will help us to continue to support the health and safety of these communities while ensuring that individuals and families who rely on income assistance for the basic essentials are not left behind during this pandemic.”

Friday’s announcement also included $44.8 million over five years to build 12 new shelters for Indigenous women and girls experiencing or escaping from domestic violence.

Two of the 12 shelters are set to be located in the North. First Nations, Indigenous governments, and organizations in the North will be able to submit proposals to receive the funding.

There will be an additional $40.8 million to support the shelters’ operating costs in the first five years, alongside more funding to provide shelter and community-led violence prevention programming to Métis women, girls, and 2SLGBTQ+ peoples.

“The challenges Indigenous women face are unique, complex, and multifaceted,” said Ahmed Hussen, minister of families and children, in the release. “This new funding will help us continue investing in more safe shelter spaces in Indigenous and northern communities.”

It is not yet clear when communities will start to receive the funding, nor exactly how some of the new funds will reach the NWT, and which of the territory’s communities will benefit.

The federal government said it “will continue to work with Indigenous partners as we move forward to support their efforts to respond to Covid-19 and its health, social, and economic impacts.”