Message from President Lorraine Whitman


Sisters, daughters, mothers, grandmothers, Two-Spirit people … I know these are challenging times for all of you.

Wherever you live in Canada, the COVID-19 outbreak is or will impact your lives. The impact on Indigenous families and communities across Canada has been significant. Some of you live in remote communities, where difficult to get supplies. Some of you are either affected by boil water advisories or you can’t use the water at all. And sSome of you live in overcrowded housing where you are in direct contact with others every day. Day by day, we are learning more and more about this new disease. It’s no secret that disease outbreaks affect women and men differently, and women and gender-diverse people are far worse off, especially when it comes to treatment and care.

As your national Indigenous women’s organization, NWAC is here for you. As the political voice of Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse people in Canada—inclusive of First Nations—on and off reserve, status and non-status, or disenfranchised Métis and Inuit, health, social and economic well-being . We are working with Provincial and Territorial Member Associations (PTMAs), our NWAC Elders, youth, and communicating with Indigenous Services Canada to keep you informed and updated about COVID-19. We have created this special section on our website for you to get information and resources you need during this challenging time. We will be providing updates as we receive new information. So please visit this site regularly.

We have overcome what seemed like insurmountable challenges in the past, and our determination and resiliency has always gotten us through. And, it will again. We are here for you.


Lorraine Whitman
President, Native Women’s Association of Canada
President Lorraine Whitman
Bear paw

What is COVID-19

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease that, in most cases, will cause mild to moderate respiratory illness for any person at any age. However, it can cause serious health concerns for people with underlying medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, or cancer.

Omicron Variant

In late November, 2021, the WHO designated Omicron (variant B.1.1.529) a worldwide concern, declaring it a “Variant of Concern” due to being significantly more contagious. Omicron has several mutations.

How is it spread?

COVID-19 spreads by way of liquid particles from an infected person’s mouth or nose, most commonly due to coughing, sneezing, speaking, singing, or breathing.  

The WHO recommends that people: 

  • Practice social physical distancing from remaining of about at least one metre apart from one another, whenever possible.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and/or by using alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Wear a mask in public and when social wherever physical distancing is not possible.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough and/or sneeze.
  • Self-isolate if you develop any COVID-19 symptoms appear or test positive.a positive test is confirmed
  • Get vaccinated and receive necessary boosters, when eligible.


Symptoms show very similarly to that of a common cold or flu and, but they also range in severity. Some people with COVID-19 develop little to no symptoms, while others require hospitalization. Some may even die.

On average, symptoms appear within five to six days of exposure to COVID-19, but symptoms can take up to 14 days to appear after exposure and can be transmitted if someone is not showing symptoms. Symptoms include:

  • Cough.
  • Fever.
  • Fatigue.
  • Loss of taste or smell.
  • Sore throat.
  • Headache.
  • Aches and pains. 
  • Nausea/diarrhea 
  • Discolouration or a rash on fingers or toes
  • Red, irritated eyes.
  • Loss of speech or mobility.
  • Confusion.
  • Chest pain.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Pneumonia in both lungs

 Each province has its own self-assessment screening tool regarding symptoms for of COVID-19 (see below). If you are unsure if you may have COVID-19, stay home and call your local health unit/network for further instructions..

If you become ill

If you are showing symptoms of COVID-19, stay home for 14 days to avoid spreading it to others. If you live with others, isolate yourself in a separate room, if possible, ,or stay 2 metres (6 feet) away.

Call your doctor or you local health authority to inform them of  your symptoms. Follow their instructions.

Coronavirus infections are diagnosed by a health care provider based on symptoms and are confirmed through lab tests.

If you have symptoms that may be COVID-19, have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or are waiting for test results, you need to:

  • Stay home until the local public health authority says you are no longer at risk of spreading the virus.
  • Practice social physical distancing and self-isolation in order to stay away from others and reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

If your symptoms get worse, immediately contact your healthcare provider or Public Health Authority and follow their instructions.

If you have no symptoms but may have been exposed to COVID-19:

  • Stay at home.
  • Monitor yourself for symptoms, even if mild, for 14 days.
  • Stay away from others.
  • Wear a mask.

Going outside is permitted  for exercise: fresh air, a walk or run, a bike ride, or to walk a dog, as long as social physical -distancing of at least 2 metres (6 feet) from others remains in effect.

You may be exposed if you:

  • Traveled outside of Canada recently.
  • Have Been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.

Need someone to talk to during the COVID-19 pandemic?

NWAC has three in-house Elders available during this time of crisis, offering support and helping to build resiliency.

Toll Free: 888-664-7808

Additional Counseling Services

hand washing

Protecting yourself

Everyone over the age of five is strongly encouraged to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The WHO lists benefits and Q&As regarding vaccinations on its website, here, as well as on the and  Government of Canada website provides vaccination coverage, here

As of January 2022, 82.9 percent of Canadians have received at least one dose of vaccination against COVID-19, with 77 percent of Canadians fully vaccinated.

More Resources

PSAs on COVID-19 from Indigenous Affairs Canada in various Indigenous languages

Know the facts about coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Practice safer sex during COVID-19. Here’s how:

Safer Sex during COVID (English)
Safer Sex during COVID (French)


Get information on government support available to Indigenous communities.

Indigenous Services Canada

Public Health Agency of Canada

International Resources

NWAC has drawn together a range of international COVID-19-related resources to help strengthen the human rights responses of different actors to the current pandemic.

COVID-19 International Resources

International Resources

NWAC has drawn together a range of international COVID-19-related resources to help strengthen the human rights responses of different actors to the current pandemic.

COVID-19 International Resources