For immediate release
April 23, 2020 

Treaty Five Territory, Thompson, MB Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO) is expressing concerns about the funding the federal government has set aside for the COVID-19 pandemic for Indigenous peoples living off reserve.

The Government of Canada has allocated $15 million for organizations to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in urban/off-reserve areas. These dollars, which are referred to as the Indigenous Community Support Fund, are meant to assist all First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people living across Canada.

“At MKO, we are aware that half of First Nations people from MKO First Nations live off reserve in both urban and rural settings. We learned yesterday that less than one million dollars has been allocated to nine organizations throughout Manitoba to assist people who live off reserve as they deal with the growing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” stated Grand Chief Garrison Settee. “One million dollars to assist thousands of First Nation, Inuit, and Metis people living in urban and rural locations in Manitoba is clearly insufficient.”

The $15 million set aside for people living off reserve was allocated through a process where organizations were required to develop and submit a proposal to be considered for funding. First Nations were not eligible to apply on behalf of their off-reserve members. Across Canada, 500 organizations submitted proposals with 92 of these coming from Manitoba. Of the 92 proposals submitted in Manitoba, only 9 will receive funding.

MKO was one organization to submit a proposal for funding. The non-profit political advocacy group submitted a proposal for $5 million in funding to assist people living off reserve in Northern Manitoba. MKO has not received notification that it is one of the nine successful applicants in Manitoba.

“It is discouraging to see so little funding being set aside for First Nations people living off reserve. Leaders are concerned that people are going to fall through the cracks,” shared Grand Chief Settee. “Some MKO Chiefs clearly expressed to the federal government on multiple occasions that they would have preferred to receive funding for their entire First Nation Band membership rather than just the on-reserve citizens. Many of them receive requests for assistance but unfortunately not all First Nations are in a position to help people living off reserve. Today we are still unclear on which urban Aboriginal organizations will receive the $15 million in federal funding across Canada. We do have concerns that First Nations citizens living off reserve, but in rural areas, will not be able to access any assistance.”

MKO will continue to advocate for Northern First Nations and continues to share updates as they become available. MKO leadership continue to meet on a regular basis with both provincial and federal partners.

MKO shares information on COVID-19 on our social media accounts and on a new webpage created for this purpose. You can find our COVID-19 webpage here.