Volunteers of the Odawa Native Friendship Centre's Bannock Bus Outreach program hand out coffee and food to those in need in downtown Ottawa during the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Apr. 16, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on May 21 $75 million in new funding for Indigenous organizations providing services to Indigenous peoples in urban centres and off reserve. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Ottawa pledges additional COVID-19 funding for off-reserve Indigenous people

The federal government will provide $75 million in new funding for Indigenous organizations providing “critical” services to Indigenous peoples living in cities and off reserve during the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Thursday.

Speaking at his regular news conference in Ottawa, Trudeau said this additional funding will go towards projects providing food security, mental health support services, sanitation and protective equipment for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Canadians.

“This is critical work. If you live off reserve or in a city, we’re working to make sure you don’t fall through the cracks,” Trudeau said.

“You need and deserve services that are culturally-appropriate.”

The new money, which comes on top of $15 million announced by Ottawa in March, could also help with other needs, such as support for Elders, transportation, and educational materials for Indigenous children and youth, Trudeau said.

“Indigenous peoples living in urban centres are experiencing the impacts of COVID-19 in a unique way,” said in a statement Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller.

“That is why we are supporting organizations that play an essential role in their lives and give a helping hand in providing crucial services to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis during this difficult time.”

Funding for projects will start rolling out in the coming weeks.

The additional funding comes amid criticism that the Liberal government has largely ignored the plight of thousands of Indigenous people who live off-reserve and in urban centres, and are not covered by federal funding for Indigenous communities.

With files from The Canadian Press

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