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OTTAWA — Winnipeg isn't getting nearly enough federal cash to help urban Indigenous people overcome COVID-19 despite having Canada’s largest subset of that population, northern Manitoba chiefs charge.
Of a $15-million package for urban-Indigenous communities to cope with the coronavirus, less than $1 million is set for groups specific to Manitoba.
Ottawa green-lighted just nine of the 92 applications from the province; there were about 500 applications nationally.
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak made those figures public Thursday, which federal sources confirmed.
Indigenous Service Canada says it’s doling out the coronavirus cash based on need — including to national groups with a presence in Winnipeg.
But Manitoba’s northern chiefs say their band members in the city are drawing a short stick.
"It is discouraging to see so little funding being set aside for First Nations people living off-reserve," MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee wrote in a statement, preempting an announcement in which the Liberals were set to showcase recipients.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau unveiled the Indigenous Community Support Fund back on March 18, which has since transferred $43 million to Manitoba reserves and the local Métis federation. That funding is meant for things like medical tents to bring COVID-19 testing out of nursing stations, and remote-schooling initiatives.
Meanwhile, urban groups across Canada were invited to submit applications until April 13 for $15 million, through a competitive process.
Five weeks after the cash was first announced, successful groups were notified through this week, and asked not to make their findings public until a federal announcement.
Just under half the funding is going to national groups such as friendship centres, while about $8.5 million is going to groups specific to cities, of which less than $1 million is set for Winnipeg.
Winnipeg had 91,145 Indigenous residents in the 2016 census, a fifth more than second-place Edmonton and double the number residing in Toronto.
A federal source said Winnipeg’s Bear Clan Patrol will receive $250,000, though the group would not speak about its application until the results are made public.
The federal NDP has asked the Liberals to put up more funding. ISC officials said that decision is up to the government, but noted Wednesday that all federal measures are being crafted without a sense of how long COVID-19 will impact Canada.
ISC has also declined to publish how much each First Nation community is getting from the COVID-19 funding until after all cash has been transferred. Until then, it will be impossible to assess the department’s pledge to divvy up that cash based on population, remoteness and socio-economic indexes.
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