The federal government is pledging $75 million to organizations helping Indigenous people living in urban areas and off-reserve amidst the pandemic.
The new funding unveiled Thursday (May 21) comes on top of $15 million previously announced in March for the Indigenous Community Support Fund.
The fund has been assisting Indigenous people with food, clothing and supplies such as personal protective equipment or computers for children doing homework.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the new funding is needed for organizations in urban and off-reserve communities offering services that are culturally appropriate.
Meanwhile, the prime minister said Ottawa has been having “good conversations” with provinces on a range of proposals for sick leave – part of an effort to stymie future resurgences of COVID-19.
He specifically pointed to discussions with B.C. Premier John Horgan, who said Wednesday his government is considering creating its own paid sick-leave program if the feds do not take the lead.
Concerns over paid sick leave have been top of mind for British Columbians as COVID-19 outbreaks have unfolded at various food-processing plants across Metro Vancouver.
The federal government is working with provinces on a national framework for testing and contact tracing to address potential resurgences of the coronavirus.
Trudeau said Thursday the goal is to scale up testing “almost instantly” in areas where COVID-19 was previously under control.
“We don’t want logistical or financial limitations to keep anywhere in this country held back from doing all the testing that is necessary,” he said.
The prime minister was also pressed on the potential for the federal government to force airlines to issue refunds rather than vouchers to passengers who bought tickets but were unable to take flights during the pandemic.
Trudeau was reluctant to commit to what approach the federal government would take, repeatedly stating Ottawa was studying how other countries have dealt with their respective airlines.
“[Canadians] want to make sure they’re not out of pocket but they also want to know that we do have a future for our airline industry in Canada. It’s an important thing for Canadians to continue to have airlines in this country. We need to make sure we’re getting that balance right,” he said.
During his daily media briefing, the prime minister had what were perhaps some of his most pointed comments directed towards Beijing since the onset of the pandemic.
Relations between Canada and China had been icy leading up to COVID-19 following the arrest of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver International Airport in December 2018.
Canadian authorities arrested the top-level executive on the basis of an extradition request from the U.S.
Soon after, Chinese authorities arrested Canadian expatriates Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in China.
“We have seen Chinese officials linking those two cases [Wanzhou and Kovrig-Spavor] from the very beginning. Canada has an independent judicial system that functions without interference or override from politicians,” Trudeau said outside his home in Ottawa.
“China doesn’t work quite the same way and [doesn’t] seem to understand we do have an independent judiciary from political intervention.”