Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Kwe. Tansi. Ulaakut. Good afternoon.
As we are learning from past experiences in responding to pandemics in Canada, and specifically in first nations, Inuit and Métis communities during H1N1, we need to recognize and understand from that experience that these communities have a higher risk of being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. That remains the case.
The first nations and Inuit health branch continues to provide effective, sustainable and culturally appropriate health programs and services that contribute to the reduction of gaps in health status between first nations and Inuit and other Canadians. I would like to remind members of the House and all Canadians that improving the health of indigenous peoples is a responsibility shared by federal, provincial and territorial, and indigenous partners. Our common goal continues to be to work together in partnership to ensure that indigenous communities receive the care they need. By working together, we can save lives.
As of May 19, we've seen 198 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in first nation communities on reserve and 16 cases in Nunavik. It is important to note for the House that of those mentioned cases, 148 first nation cases have recovered, and the entirety of the Inuit cases in Nunavik have recovered. This is due to incredible first nations and Inuit leadership in stopping the curve, aggressive screening and testing when cases manifest themselves in communities, and the amazing work in tracing contacts as quickly as possible when a case arises in a community. It is thanks to that aggressive action and the passage of time that these cases have recovered.
In addition to the direct funding of approximately $300 million that we've provided to indigenous communities and in addition to business support in excess of $300 million, to date more than $107.8 million in funding has been allocated by my department specifically toward the health response to COVID-19 to ensure the procurement of supplies and nursing services in communities, as well as preparedness measures led by the communities themselves, the leadership of which has been exemplary.
We continue to monitor closely the situation in northwestern Saskatchewan in particular, and to support communities in response to the outbreak, we've provided $2.3 million in funding that has gone towards the northwest Saskatchewan pandemic response plan. This pandemic plan is a collective effort of first nations, Métis, municipal, provincial and federal partners. Meadow Lake Tribal Council and Métis Nation Saskatchewan in particular have undertaken an exemplary collaboration in leading the response to this significant and concerning outbreak.
Indigenous Services Canada also continues to work with the northwest communities incident command centre in the area, including provincial health authorities, first nations and Métis communities to support their efforts through increased access to testing, enhanced surveillance, strong contact tracing, and infection prevention and control measures.
We are all focused on the health response that will save lives. I want to reassure first nations leadership that we are committed to supporting first nation communities in activating their pandemic plans and providing the support and collaboration with provinces that best respond to each community's needs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Urban and off-reserve first nations, Inuit and Métis communities face unique issues when it comes to preventing and fighting the spread of this virus. Since the start of the pandemic, urban and off-reserve indigenous organizations and local community organizations have been working around the clock to provide direct services to indigenous peoples.
We acknowledge that COVID-19 has placed additional pressure on the activities of these organizations and has increased their overall spending. In response to these needs, we've taken immediate steps to support these organizations through the indigenous community support fund. A total of $15 million has been allocated to regional, urban and off-reserve indigenous organizations. These organizations can also receive funding from other federal initiatives under Canada's economic response plan, such as Employment and Social Development Canada's reaching home initiative, and the additional funding allocated to shelters for women who are fleeing violence and to sexual assault centres.
Additional funding for food banks has also been made available to Canadians, including indigenous peoples and northern communities, to meet their urgent food needs. In addition to federal funding, the provinces and territories along with individuals, through charitable donations, play a role in supporting these organizations.
However, we acknowledge that more support is needed. We're actively working with communities to identify the support that they need. We're working with government partners to explore other ways to further assist urban and off-reserve indigenous organizations.
As part of our COVID-19 economic response plan, and as mentioned by Minister Monsef earlier today, Indigenous Services Canada is currently distributing $10 million to its existing network of 46 emergency shelters on first nations reserves and in the Yukon to support indigenous women and children fleeing violence. In response to the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, the Government of Canada committed to working with territories, provinces, and indigenous governments and partners to develop a national action plan that will address violence against women, girls and LGBT and two-spirit people.
To that end, we are supporting national indigenous organizations in reaching out to their members to identify their priorities and best practices, and further understand how they want to be involved in the co-development and implementation work that lies ahead. That's why last week my colleague Minister Bennett attended the Yukon engagement session on violence against indigenous women and girls, co-chaired by Yukon territorial minister, Jeanie Dendys, and women and gender equality minister, Maryam Monsef. The engagement session was a great opportunity to allow Yukon to share wise and promising practices, initiatives, priorities, challenges and views regarding the systemic and disproportionate violence experienced by women and girls and LGBT and two-spirit people, with jurisdictions and other stakeholders from across the country.
In addition, we've recently concluded a proposal-based process to distribute $15 million to organizations that provide critical services to first nations off reserve and indigenous peoples living in urban centres. This funding is part of the government's indigenous community support fund. To date, over 94 proposals have been supported through the urban and off-reserve stream of the indigenous community support fund. This includes support for friendship centres as they continue their important work to serve urban indigenous communities in the face of this pandemic.
Supporting indigenous youth is another key area of our focus. Among our recent measures, we've included in the nearly $9 billion for post-secondary students and recent graduates, a one-time increase of $75.2 million in 2020-21. This is dedicated to providing support to first nations, Inuit and Métis Nation students impacted by COVID-19 so that they can continue, maintain and pursue their academic studies. To be clear, this funding is in addition to the existing distinctions-based support for first nations, Inuit and Métis Nation students pursuing post-secondary education and the Canada emergency student benefit funding, which is available to all Canadian students.
We are also working with indigenous partners, including youth organizations, to support and promote indigenous resources for youth. For example, We Matter is an indigenous-led youth organization focused on life promotion and messages of hope and resilience. They have developed important tool kits that are available for youth, teachers and support workers to help youth and those who support youth.
In closing, let me reiterate that we are committed to responding to and supporting the evolving needs of first nations, Inuit and Métis communities and individuals as we transition together through the various stages of this pandemic.
Meegwetch. Nakurmiik. Marsi. Thank you.