Highlights of ISC BC Region Comprehensive Outreach

Posted: May 19, 2020

Topic: Community Support, Indigenous Services Canada, Leaders, Public Health

Source: Indigenous Services Canada

The following is a report published by Indigenous Services Canada BC Region. You can download the report as a PDF here.

Throughout a two week period beginning April 23, 188 Indian Act First Nations regarding COVID-19. This summary provides highlights of costs, concerns and priorities expressed by First Nations to date and looking forward.

The data included in this report summarizes conversations that took place with elected officials and administrators in BC First Nations that included anecdotal information, so readers are cautioned that the numbers represent trends and that further data collection and analysis would be required for use beyond trend analysis.

Summary of Findings

BC First Nations identified food insecurity and community security as the two most common and costly priorities for First Nations to date and going forward. Exact expenditures to date cannot be determined with accuracy as there is no requirement for financial reporting before year-end and a number of First Nations provided gift cards and cash to members which may have been expended across a range of needs related to transportation, food, utilities and rent/mortgages and have therefore been captured as “Other Costs” along with less frequently reported items such as wages, overtime costs and IT investments.

Connectivity and support for off-reserve members are the second largest tier of need being reported by First Nations. Connectivity issues were typically related to the need for reliable, affordable internet service for work-at-home arrangements, business and education while support for off-reserve members ranged from path finding assistance to available supports through to the provision of vouchers, gift cards and/or cash for basic necessities. It was acknowledged that there are many urban service providers however First Nations advised that Band members typically call their First Nation first for support, and then expect path finding assistance from the First Nation to other off-reserve supports.

The third most common set of responses focused on mental health and PPE issues while education and costs related to social distancing enabling renovations are increasingly seen as a priority, as the Province and First Nations prepare for re-opening. (FNHA has been provided a list of all First Nations who identified health related PPE as a concern.)

A number of First Nations have already expended or are close to having fully expended their allocations of ICSF while others reported that they are managing for now but noted that if this continues much longer, they would need to reassess their financial needs in light of the emerging circumstances. Another group of First Nations felt there was still too much uncertainty to predict with any reliability how far they could stretch the resources they had received or what their future requirements might be.

Lastly, with respect to costs, a significant number of First Nations have supplemented the funding they received from ISC with own source revenues to provide a basic level of support to all their members regardless of whether they live on- or off-reserve. Allocations have also been made available by First Nations to vulnerable populations, such as elders, based on circumstance and need.

Going forward, a number of First Nations have expressed concern with relaxing the restrictions currently in place and the influx of non-residents they are seeing who want to enter their territories. Rural and remote communities are particularly concerned as many city dwellers see their territories as safe places to get away from the larger urban centres. Related to this it is expected that First Nations will express increased needs to address COVID-19 education and information dissemination to influence the behavior of both band members and visitors to their community or territory.

Discussion Summary

PAST: Largest response costs to date (148 respondents):

The largest specific individual costs items reported by First Nations to date are related to food insecurity (24%) and security (18%). Social distancing (17%) includes measures taken to inform and/or educate community members, tourists, non-residents and external workers. “Other costs” (48%) ranged from gift cards and cash distributed to on- and off-reserve community members to salary, overtime, and IT hardware costs incurred by First Nations.

PRESENT: Community Priorities (63 First Nations):

Food supply (59%) and security (35%) continue to be the top two priorities identified by First Nations followed by connectivity (34%), support for off-reserve members (23%), and mental health (23%).

Note: A list of First Nations who raised the need for more PPE was shared with First Nations Health Authority.

FUTURE: Additional Funding Required for COVID-19 Response (163 First Nations):

90 First Nations (55%) anticipate requiring additional funding over the next six months. 30 First Nations (18%) reported they have sufficient funding for now, however they expect that to change depending on the length of pandemic. Finally, 23 First Nations (14%) feel there is too much uncertainty to predict future funding requirements.

Of the 90 First Nations that already anticipate the need for additional funding, 49 provided details of when funding will be required and the types of expenditures they expect to incur. (11 First Nations indicated they need funding within the next six months and also if the current situation continue, they would require additional funding beyond six months.) Some reported requirements in more than one timeframe.) 22 reported more funding is required immediately, 19 anticipate more funding will be required over the next one to three months, 8 in four to six months, and 11 anticipate the need for more funding beyond six months.

Food supply (61%) and security (45%) continue to be the top two priorities of First Nations followed by support for off-reserve members (29%). Overtime (20%), cleaning supplies (14%), education supports (12%), IT system improvements (10%), and meeting supports (8%) round out the list of specific costs identified by First Nations. “Other costs” were identified by 41% of First Nations.

Other highlights of outreach conversations:

  • Funding Information
    • Off-Reserve Members: 18% of First Nations reported providing funding to Off-Reserve Members.
    • Non-ICSF Funding Used: 39% of First Nations reported that non-ICSF funding has been used to support members.
    • Government of Canada COVID-19 Supports: 77% of First Nations reported they have the information required to assist members accessing supports from Federal government departments and the Province.

COVID-19 First Nation Economic and Indigenous Business Impacts

The following summary was prepared based on engagement with First Nations economic development staff and/or their development corporations, as well as through forums such as AFOA-BC’s April 27th COVID-19 Impact Forum: Opportunities and Challenges facing First Nations Economic Development Corporations and Businesses.


75 First Nations have reported economic impacts or concerns to ISC to date.

Indigenous tourism sector impacts:

Indigenous hospitality and tourism businesses rely heavily on seasonal visitors and face significant income losses due to COVID-19. 91% have had to close or now operate in a limited capacity. Even after travel restrictions are lifted the sector will face a slow recovery relative to other sectors. The Indigenous Tourism BC Emergency Relief Fund has provided immediate relief funding (up to $5K) to 71 small businesses to date, but this limited level does not address revenue losses experienced by the majority of operators, in particular large-scale operators who anticipate losses up to and in some cases in excess of $1,000,000 in revenues.

Micro-businesses on reserve:

Micro-businesses on reserve have limited or no access to mainstream or AFI COVID- relief funding. These businesses have experienced up to 90% decline in revenue and report they need cash flow injection to stay afloat.

Indigenous business COVID-19 relief funding:

Some BC AFIs are telling clients that they have not received the new funds announced on April 18th and that it could be weeks before they can flow loan funding. Concerns are being heard from operators that their businesses will not be a priority to receive AFI funding if they are not existing or previous clients. Similarly, Community Future Development Corporations are unclear when they will receive funding announced April 17.

Business support services:

A number of COVID-19 business supports have been announced in recent weeks, however, a growing number of Indigenous businesses are reporting frustration knowing which programs they can access and how to properly complete applications. Priorities being expressed by Indigenous businesses include one-stop pathfinding support to navigate and complete applications for existing and recently announced programs, the need for advice on how to reduce costs, payment deferral options, and how to consider business adaptation opportunities.

Long term Economic Recovery Plan:

35 BC First Nations and development corporations have asked ISC BC Region about an economic recovery plan once the pandemic restrictions are lifted. Many have asked whether an economic stimulus fund will be established to enable First Nation communities to plan in a post pandemic economy. Several communities such as have advised they are prepared to implement business infrastructure projects to help with their recovery for the long term. Larger First Nation owned development corporations, have expressed the need for federal funding to compliment provincial recovery plans, foster regional economic clusters and enable First Nations to partner on municipal and provincial infrastructure opportunities.