The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic/Syndemic on Indigenous Peoples in Canada and the USA

June 19, 2020 - 11:00 am (EDT) – Online Conference

Canada’s political leaders have repeatedly informed us that ‘we are all in this together’. It is curious in this time of great need, that the assistance provided to Indigenous communities has not recognized the unique challenges that we face which when examined in the light of the pandemic, actually cause syndemic consequences. A syndemic occurs when complex health and social crises combine to exacerbate a health condition (Singer, 2000). “Syndemic” recognizes that pre-existing conditions such as poverty, poor access to adequate healthcare and the resulting development of high rates of certain health conditions lead to worse health outcomes when a pandemic occurs. Longstanding health and economic disparities increase the vulnerability of Indigenous peoples and Indigenous communities. Indicators show that these health and economic disparities have been exacerbated by the pandemic and could be considered ‘syndemic’.

Within both Canada and the United States, a number of Indigenous communities have been epicentres of COVID-19 virus outbreaks – representing the largest infection rates per population. Despite this, Indigenous communities such as the Clearwater River Dene Nation have demonstrated resilience and their ability to deal with COVID-19 outbreaks more effectively than other epicentres. 

On June 19th from 11:00 am to 2:30 pm (EDT), the University of Manitoba and the COVID-19 Social Impacts Network will hold an online conference where new data on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will be presented, problems resulting from the lack of data will be discussed and participants will share insights as to how well Indigenous peoples and communities are managing through this crisis and in their ongoing efforts to ensure capacity, preparedness and resilience.

The Social Impacts of COVID-19 Online Conference Series is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.


View the conference program


Note: The presentations/documents available below are the property of their authors. We encourage you to contact the concerned authors directly for permission to make use of their material. If the presentation you are looking for is missing, it is because it has not been sent to us.

  • Bonnie Healy, Chair, Board of Directors, First Nations Information Governance Centre (FNIGC) / Health Director at the Blackfoot Confederacy > View her presentation
  • The Honourable Senator Kim Pate, The Senate of Canada > View her documents: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9

The COVID-19 crisis has been rightly focused on medical intervention, containment, and the creation of vaccines. There are economic, social and cultural consequences arising from the virus which affect us all.

The Association for Canadian Studies, the Vanier Institute of the Family and the Canadian Commission for UNESCO established the Social Impacts Network in response to the needs for empirically based insight into key issues around COVID-19. The Network has partnered around weekly national surveys that have shown widening socio-economic differences gaps among Canadians and especially for recent immigrants.

For information regarding the network go to: