Canada’s sparsely populated and remote northern territories are seeing much higher Covid-19 vaccination rates than its more populous southern provinces despite geographic challenges.
An official outreach to indigenous communities is seeking to overcome mistrust arising from decades of ill treatment of native people by the Canadian government.
The harsh terrain of the territories makes up 40% of Canada’s huge landmass but is home to just 125,000 people, the majority of whom are indigenous, many living in communities only accessible by air.
Despite this, the authorities are shipping more doses per capita to these communities.
Almost 17% of their populations have received at least the first dose of the two-dose vaccines, compared to the national figure of 2%, according to government data.
The territories say they are on track to have at least 75% of their adult populations vaccinated by April, compared to the September target the federal government has set for the rest of the country.
Vaccinating the indigenous communities is important to help keep Canadian Covid-19 deaths in check because the risk of an outbreak in remote areas is seen as high and hospitals are scarce.
Dr Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer, told Reuters the territories share common features – remote, small and largely indigenous populations dispersed over large areas with limited healthcare availability. He called it “gratifying” that the provincial and federal governments have recognised these factors and are addressing them.
Vaccine hesitancy is a global problem, but mistrust of authorities has deep roots among these indigenous people, who represent 5% of Canada’s population and have experienced centuries of mistreatment and genocide at the hands of the Canadian government.