Feds announce millions to help the North deal with COVID-19

New supports offered for pandemic preparedness, food subsidies, airlines, small businesses

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, speaking today in Ottawa, announces funding to help the territories deal with COVID-19. (Screenshot)

By Jane George

Updated on April 15 at 10:42 a.m.

Nunavut’s health-care system, food subsidies, airlines and small businesses will all receive more money from the federal government to get through the COVID-19 pandemic.

This morning Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an additional $130 million to support northern communities in dealing with COVID-19.

“If you live in the North, chances are you are worried your local health centre has the resources to fight COVID-19 and cope with cases that might come up. So we’re providing $72.6 million to Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut for health care and community preparedness,” Trudeau said.

Nunavut’s share of that $72.6 million is $30 million, plus up to $5 million for air services.

“These are tough times but we are going to help you through them to set your community up to come back strong when things get better,” he said.

Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq is expected to learn about the details of this morning’s announcement later today, and he is looking forward to hearing specifics and advocating for Nunavut’s ongoing needs related to the pandemic, his press officer, Cate Macleod, said in an email.

Trudeau also said during his news conference that Ottawa would invest more money in Nutrition North, which provides cargo subsidies to bring food and other essential supplies to the North.

“This will make it easier for you to afford the food and basics that keep you and your family healthy,” Trudeau said.

Nutrition North will receive an additional $25 million. This will increase the subsidy for basic and essential goods, and include additional personal hygiene materials for all northern communities.

Trudeau said the federal government would provide funding to northern air carriers to transport these supplies to ensure groceries and medical supplies can continue to get to the North.

A news release says that air carriers in the three territories will receive $17.3 million.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami had previously called upon Ottawa to recognize northern airlines as an essential service during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canadian North said in an emailed statement that “while we still require more details on this announcement, this is an encouraging recognition of the essential service we provide and follows our efforts over the last month to have the government take note of our unique role in supporting the northern communities.”

As well, Trudeau said his government would assist small businesses in the North, which have been “hit especially hard by this crisis.”

The money will cover operating costs not already covered by other federal measures.

The territories will have access to $15 million through the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency in “non-repayable support” to help address the impacts of COVID-19, he said.

Speaking in a second federal news conference, Dan Vandal, the federal minister of northern affairs, underlined the “exceptional needs” of the North.

And northerners guided today’s announcement focusing on the health, safety and well-being of northerners, he said.

“These supports will ensure that northern residents have the supports they need to prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

In March, the federal government released a $82-billion COVID-19 economic relief package.

Of that amount, Inuit received $45 million, which the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami board of directors decided to divide among the four Inuit regions: Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut and the Inuvialuit settlement region.

Nunavut’s allocation was 52 per cent, or $22.5 million.

Correction: This story was updated to say “we’re providing $72.6 million to Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut for health care and community preparedness” as opposed to “$76.2 million….” We regret the transcribing error.

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(6) Comments:

  1. Posted by Science saves lives on

    Maybe this could include establishment of a small lab that could run rapid covid tests? Some of the mining companies have floated the idea in the past to set up environmental testing capability in the eastern Arctic. Why not start with a clinical microbiology focus that could be broadened or converted later to meet other very important territorial needs such as drinking water testing? It sounds like covid is going to be with us for the foreseeable future and rapid testing is the best tool to stamp it out to avoid outbreaks. Doesn’t the NAC already have lab space that is under-utilized?

    • Posted by The Old Trapper on

      Why not 3 mini labs, one each at Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet, and Cambridge Bay? That would likely mean 24 hour or less turnaround on test results, be it for Covid-19, TB, measles, or most other communicable diseases.
      Now I admit to zero knowledge of how much such an operation would cost. A million a piece for lab space, equipment, a technician or two to operate the equipment? The GN should look into this possibility.

      • Posted by Science saves lives on

        3 regional labs would be excellent.

        Setting up labs could be done in a makeshift way for now if the GN could get its hands on enough rapid test kits – they require less conventional lab infrastrucutre.

  2. Posted by Good to See on

    So good to see that this money is not going to ITK for distribution.

  3. Posted by Patricia Alexander on

    Can the writer help us find out how much if any of this amount will go to Nunavik?

  4. Posted by Hunter 1 on

    I just wish we the people from Nunavik get some kind of percentage of the funds for purchasing cleaning supplies and lots of fruits and vegetables, some families like mine have a lot of kids and we are spending a lot of money just to stay inside and be healthy, now it seems like I am losing hope, I don’t know how much longer I can keep up with this it’s ridiculous, forgive me for saying this, I can’t even pay house rent for this month!

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