How we did it

The Signal wrote a computer program to gather First Nations COVID data

Several days a week, Indigenous Services Canada updates the total number of COVID-19 infections on First Nation reserves in Canada. However, unlike the Government of Canada COVID-19 updates, the department doesn’t show the actual number of cases for a day, the rate of growth, or per capita rates —only the cumulative number of cases to that day for First Nations in each province, and the number of active cases, hospitalizations and recovered cases for all First Nations in Canada. The department also publishes an epidemiological summary showing weekly case numbers and trends.

The Signal wrote a computer program to collect the five-day-a-week COVID-19 data posted by Indigenous Services since early January.

By using the case data and the department’s data on registered First Nations populations as of February 2021, The Signal calculated the approximate rate of total cumulative cases for First Nation people living in on-reserve communities. The COVID-19 cases posted by Indigenous Services don’t include those who live off reserve or in the territories.

When compared with data on the rate of cases in the general population, the rates of total cases for 100,000 in First Nations were sometimes more than twice that in the overall population. Rates are lower than in the general population in Ontario and eastward, but with 61 per cent of the registered First Nations population in the west, it has a huge influence on the overall picture. Data is not available for Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

There are limitations to this analysis and to the data used. While the registered population data for First Nations is the best available for calculating province-wide rates in those communities, it may not be completely precise as it doesn’t include people who are entitled to register as status Indians but don’t, or whose registration hasn’t been confirmed.

For example, a newborn baby may not be included on the list. A recently deceased person may have not been removed from the list. As well, a person may choose not to document their community of residence.

There is also a small difference in the timing of the population data The Signal used to calculate rates per 100,000 on First Nations and that used by the Public Health Agency of Canada to calculate rates in the general population. The registered First Nations populations data is from February 2021, while the public health agency uses population data for the third quarter of 2019.

For all these reasons, the rates on First Nations and the calculated differences with the overall population should be considered approximations based on the best available data.

Dayne Patterson

Dayne Patterson

Dayne Patterson is a recent graduate student at the University of King's College. He's reported from all over Canada, including B.C., Alberta, and Nova Scotia. Now, you can find him in Saskatchewan searching for ice to skate on, floors to dance on and new stories to write about.