“We aren’t able to do this in every community because testing supplies are limited.”
Chief Charlene Belleau, chair of the First Nations Health Council of B.C., said access to PPE has also been a concern for First Nations across her province.
“We also recognize the limitations across the country, but we are constantly advocating for PPE not only for our health care providers but also for our people that are providing security on the lines or at band offices,” she told the committee.
The federal government has said it has been delivering large amounts of protective equipment to Indigenous communities to ensure they are able to protect their citizens and front line workers against the novel coronavirus.
On Friday, Indigenous Services Canada tweeted that as of May 22, it had shipped 845 orders of PPE to First Nations communities and had one order in progress.
But Conservative MP Bob Zimmer, who is the party’s Northern affairs critic, says the accounts coming from First Nations chiefs and advocates at committee over the last few weeks indicate more of these critical supplies are needed in many Indigenous communities.
“It’s a federal responsibility to provide PPE to the Indigenous communities and it was supposed to be established that way. We’re hearing of shortages across the board, across Canada,” Zimmer said Friday.
Richard Jock, interim chief executive officer of British Columbia’s First Nations Health Authority, said his agency has developed a system to distribute PPE to its communities and regions to ensure there is a few weeks’ supply to try to prevent critical shortages.