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Indigenous Health and Wellness

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Indigenous Peoples (First Nations/Métis/Inuit) have diverse ancestral knowledge systems of health and wellness that have enabled survival through multiple pandemics since contact with European settlers. Due to deeply rooted ideologies of settler supremacy and historical and contemporary impacts of colonization such as racism and social exclusion, Indigenous Peoples did not come into the COVID-19 pandemic on an equal footing to other citizens. The direct and indirect impacts of COVID-19 and associated response measures and restrictions have layered onto the cumulative stresses of intergenerational trauma, manufactured poverty, and pervasive racism and discrimination. Some COVID-19 response measures have also conflicted with BC First Nations and Métis communities’ right to self-determination. Despite the cumulative impacts of these stresses, Indigenous Peoples remain strong and resilient.

As BC engages in the process of reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, full recognition and respect of Indigenous rights and title is essential. This project marks an attempt to disrupt the status quo of population health reporting and to promote Indigenous self-determination. In partnership with Indigenous rightsholders and Indigenous organizations we strive to embrace a “two-eyed seeing” perspective, which builds on the knowledge and strengths of both Indigenous and Western ways of knowing. Together, we also prioritized a distinctions-based approach, to recognize that the pandemic and related response measures may impact Indigenous groups, including First Nations, Métis, and Inuit, differently. We are not currently able to provide Inuit-specific analyses, but we are working in partnership with organizations to capture the experiences of Indigenous Peoples in BC as thoroughly as possible. 

The stories of Indigenous Peoples’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic are being told in accordance with Indigenous data governance principles that ensure that Indigenous Peoples are guiding both what is being reported and how it is reported. Indigenous Peoples’ experiences and perspectives are elevated through this project in three key ways:

  1. Indigenous-specific reports are being developed that illuminate priority topics identified by the First Nations Health Authority and Métis Nation BC.
  2. Non-Indigenous reports hold space for Indigenous Peoples’ experiences, by recognizing Indigenous rights and data governance and re-directing readers to the Indigenous reports.
  3. Including data regarding Indigenous experiences from other sources and jurisdictions to illuminate the experiences of Indigenous Peoples when BC data are unavailable.
Dr. Danièle Behn Smith 
Deputy Provincial Health Officer—Indigenous Health 
Office of the Provincial Health Officer 
BC Ministry of Health
COVID-19 and the public health measures taken to respond to it have reinforced existing inequities and discrimination present in BC’s health and wellness system. First Nations people in BC have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Data show that First Nations people in BC have tested positive for COVID-19 at a higher rate than other residents, have had lower median ages of hospitalization and have higher rates of admission to intensive care units and death from the virus. The impact of COVID-19 on social determinants such as housing, food security, education, and geography has had ripple effects on the health and wellness of First Nations in BC. This is evident in the significant increase in toxic drug deaths during the pandemic and the elevated rates of anxiety, depression, and grief experienced by many First Nations people, which is further layered with intergenerational trauma and loss from past pandemics. Despite these challenges, First Nations people in BC have responded to the pandemic with strength and resilience that is grounded in culture and community. Families have found new ways to connect, support their communities and keep each other well. The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) has worked quickly to expand virtual services, and proudly served as a partner to First Nations communities in BC to advance community priorities and ensure support and services have been available throughout the pandemic. 


The effects of COVID-19 and the public measures to stifle its spread have impacted the lives of many. Métis people have suffered from these impacts disproportionately when compared to the general population. Existing health and wellness disparities and systemic barriers to care have been exacerbated by the closure of schools and businesses, lockdowns, and lack of accessible resources.

Financial stressors and socioeconomic burdens during COVID-19 played a significant role in amplifying the pre-existing inequities that Métis people face. Pre-existing inequities from colonial capitalism, like food insecurity, chronic illness, and the impacts of systemic violence, continued to create lasting effects on the health and wellbeing of Métis people. During the pandemic, many necessities such as food, medication, healthcare, personal protective equipment (PPE), utilities, and housing were unavailable or inaccessible. Reduced access to medical, emotional, and cultural supports also worsened mental wellness and increased isolation in our communities – especially for Métis women, youth, 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, and people living with disabilities. Our Elders and seniors also experienced a marked increase in social isolation as they reduced contact and stayed home in an attempt to keep safe from COVID-19.

Métis culture is built on relationships, connection, and Kaa-wiichihitoyaahk – "we take care of each other." To assist in alleviating the negative consequences of COVID-19, Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC) supported Communities by piloting various assistance programs such as Elder and senior medical supports, mental health supports, rental and utility subsidies, food security programs, and other financial aid supports. According to the 2021 MNBC annual report, Métis Chartered Community volunteers have been on the front lines of assisting our communities with their immediate needs—including PPE, food and groceries, medicine, providing transportation for community members, technology support, emotional support, mental health first aid, and other financial assistance.

In addition to COVID-19, Métis families and communities were met with the realities of climate change, and the ongoing toxic drug supply crisis. Moreover, the uncovering of unmarked graves further solidified the stories shared by survivors in the Truth and Reconciliation report in 2015, of Indigenous children who never returned home from Residential schools. This uncovering of unmarked graves has further impacted the spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental wellbeing of Indigenous communities - including Métis Chartered Communities throughout COVID-19. The pandemic has compounded already existing issues experienced by the Métis Nation and has given urgency to the prioritization of the wellbeing and healing of our Nation which has been neglected for too long.

"Returning to strength and community is the root that connects us to our ancestors past and present. It is the pathway to our future." – Louis De Jaeger, MNBC Minister of Health and Economic Development.



Métis Food (In)security and Food as Medicine: Examining the Societal Consequences of the COVID-19 Pandemic 

This report explores how the COVID-19 pandemic and public health response measures to prevent transmission of the virus (e.g. stay-at-home guidelines, physical distancing, group size limitations) both illuminated and worsened pre-existing inequities in terms of food security for Métis people in BC. 
This report is a joint initiative between Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC), BC’s Office of the Provincial Health Officer (OPHO), and the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC). MNBC is grateful for the support of these partners in presenting our key findings and recommendations to improve food security for Métis people in BC. 

SOURCE: Indigenous Health and Wellness ( )
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