“Indigenous peoples (First Nations/Inuit/Métis) 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:
- Indigenous-specific reports are being developed that illuminate priority topics identified by the First Nations Health Authority and Métis Nation BC.
- Non-Indigenous reports hold space for Indigenous peoples’ experiences, by recognizing Indigenous rights and data governance and re-directing readers to the Indigenous reports.
- 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