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COVID-19 Q&A for First Nations Leaders and Citizens in Ontario

Updated: Apr 3, 2020

On March 11, the World Health Oganization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. Please see Q&A developed by Indigenous Services Canada.

Who can First Nations leaders contact for help?

If you have questions about COVID-19, First Nations leaders should contact their regional health authorities in the province or territory where you are located. You can also contact the nursing station(s) or health centre(s) in your community.

You can also contact ISC’s regional emergency management coordinators.

You can also contact the Government of Canada novel coronavirus information line: 1-833-784-4397 or for general information on COVID-19.

To contribute effectively to the public health response, First Nations leaders should encourage their community members to follow recommendations made by the Public Health Agency of Canada and regional health authorities.

How can individuals be tested for COVID-19?

To obtain information on COVID-19 testing, First Nations leaders should contact their regional health authorities in the province or territory where you are located. You can also contact the community nursing station(s) or health centre.

Is a state of emergency required to access help?

No, a community does not have to declare a state of emergency. Measures are already being put in place to support communities in controlling the spread of COVID-19. A global pandemic has already been declared.

See latest COVID-19 Emergency Response Aid Package announcement here:

Is there funding to support the needs of First Nations?

While provinces and territories are generally responsible for the provision of direct health care services to Canadians, the Government of Canada is ensuring that its responsibilities in relation to First Nations communities are being met and that well-coordinated, effective measures are in place to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19.

The Government of Canada has dedicated resources to respond to the urgent public health response including for First Nations communities. One hundred million dollars has been allocated for the public health response including funding to Indigenous Services Canada.

To maximize the use of these resources, ISC will consider supporting measures proposed by First Nations that improve and contribute to the public health response to COVID-19.

These proposed measures will have to:

  1. Respond to critical requirements to support communities in activating their pandemic plans.

  2. Constitute an effective allocation of the scarce public health and primary health care capacity to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

  3. Align with scientific evidence as determined by a medical officer of health.

  4. Be deployed in the short-term to address immediate needs.

Should they be needed, additional resources will be secured to ensure an effective, coordinated response.

For more information in accessing funding, contact the ISC regional office.

How to obtain Personal Protective Equipment?

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is in short supply worldwide. Since 2009, ISC has maintained a PPE supply intended to provide surge capacity to nurses providing care to First Nations communities during a pandemic.

ISC has plans in place and is working with provinces and territories to ensure we are good stewards of the supply of PPE we have in place. In order to maintain essential services during a pandemic, we have asked for each community to identify what services MUST remain during a pandemic. ISC will endeavor to maintain those services with our current stockpile.

ISC has and will continue to provide the following:

  1. training healthcare providers in the use of PPE required to provide safe care in any public health risk situation;

  2. actively supporting First Nations partners to ensure pandemic plans are current and follow best practices; and

  3. ISC has contacted regions to review the processes in place in order to refill and restock PPE as required.

For PPE related questions and requests, contact your ISC Regional Medical Officer at:


Dr. Maurica Maher, Indigenous Services Canada at

Flood season is coming. What will happen?

While the emergency situations may be more complex given the pandemic, ISC will continue to support First Nations in responding to natural disasters, such as floods and wildfires. This is part of the essential services that will continue.

Given the current context, leaders are encouraged to reach out as early as possible, so that we can work together to update and adjust response plans as needed.

Indigenous Services Canada regional officials work closely with First Nations at risk of flooding and partners to help ensure emergency preparedness and response plans are in place and fund eligible flood mitigation preparedness and response measures.

Flood risk monitoring and emergency response is managed by the provinces and territories. For more information on flood monitoring in your region, consult the regional organizations section on the Indigenous Services Canada website at

Will services and programs continue?

To ensure the ongoing delivery of critical services and core programs, the Government of Canada has initiated whole-of-government contingency planning informed by the best available health and scientific advice regarding COVID-19. Each federal department and agency is putting the necessary measures in place to ensure continuity of the Government’s services to Canadians.

While non-essential activities such as travel and engagement will be reduced, Indigenous Services Canada will maintain all essential services. This includes for instance Primary Health Care, Non-Insured Health Benefits, Jordan’s Principle, Child and Family Services, and funding transfers to communities.

What if there is a boil water advisory?

View current progress on lifting long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserves updated as of February 15, 2020 here:

Handwashing and drinking water advisories

One recommendation to prevent the spread of viruses is to wash your hands.

In the case of Boil Water Advisories and Do Not Consume Advisories you can still wash your hands with soap and water. When a boil water advisory is in place you should bring water to a rolling boil for a minute before it is used.

Bottled water should be used for hand washing during Do Not Use Advisories. For information on drinking water advisories visit

What is a boil water advisory?

Boil water advisories advise home users that they should bring their tap water to a rolling boil for at least 1 minute before they:

  1. drink the water

  2. use the water for other purposes, such as to:

  3. cook

  4. feed pets

  5. brush their teeth

  6. make soups or ice cubes

  7. wash fruits and vegetables

  8. make infant formula or other drinks

During a boil water advisory, do not use tap water to bathe those who need help, such as:

  1. infants

  2. toddlers

  3. the elderly

Give them sponge baths instead so they avoid swallowing the water.

Boil water advisories are issued when:

  1. there are problems with the water treatment system, such as chlorine levels that are too low

  2. the water has disease-causing:

  3. viruses

  4. bacteria

  5. parasites

Do not consume advisories

Do not consume advisories are issued when the water system has contaminants, like lead, that can’t be removed from the water by boiling.

Do not consume advisories are also called do not drink advisories. These advisories tell the public that they should not use their tap water to:

  1. cook

  2. drink

  3. feed pets

  4. brush their teeth

  5. make soups or ice cubes

  6. wash fruits and vegetables

  7. make infant formula or other drinks

During a do not consume advisory, do not use tap water to bathe those who need help, such as:

  1. infants

  2. toddlers

  3. the elderly

Give them sponge baths instead so they avoid swallowing the water by accident.

The water can still be used to shower and bathe:

  1. adults

  2. older children

Do not use advisories

Do not use advisories warn the public that they should not use their tap water for any reason. A do not use advisory is issued when:

  1. using the water poses a health risk

  2. the water system has pollutants that can’t be removed through boiling

  3. being exposed to the water through bathing could, perhaps due to a chemical spill, irritate the:

  4. skin

  5. eyes

When clean, running water isn’t available

Sometimes clean water is not available – for example, during a ‘boil water’ advisory or when you’re in a location where the source or quality of water is not known. Treat water by boiling it for one minute and let it cool to room temperature. To wash your hands:

  1. Get a bowl large enough to fit your hands in

  2. Remove jewellery

  3. Pour enough water into the bowl to cover hands

  4. Wet hands up to the wrists

  5. Apply enough soap to cover hands

  6. Work soap under the fingernails and around and between joints and fingers

  7. Remove all soap and dirt by moving your hands around in the bowl

  8. Dry your hands with a clean cloth or paper towel while taking special care to dry thoroughly between fingers

  9. Throw out the water from the hand washing bowl following each individual use

How Canada is monitoring COVID-19?

The health and safety of all Canadians is our top priority.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is working with provinces, territories and international partners, including the World Health Organization, to actively monitor the situation. Global efforts are focused on containment of the outbreak and the prevention of further spread.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer of Canada is in close contact with provincial and territorial Chief Medical Officers of Health to ensure that any cases of COVID-19 occurring in Canada continue to be rapidly identified and managed in order to protect the health of Canadians.

Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory is performing diagnostic testing for the virus that causes COVID-19. The laboratory is working in close collaboration with provincial and territorial public health laboratories, which are now able to test for COVID-19.

Where can I learn more about 2019 COVID-19?

You can visit for more information, including frequently asked questions about the virus and the Government of Canada’s actions. You can also contact the Government of Canada’s information line at 1-833-784-4397.

#covid #coronavirus #PersonalProtectiveEquipment #ISC #BWA #FirstNations #FloodSeason

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