Structural harms and COVID‑19 policy responses in Manitoba: Exploring the experiences of Red River Métis

Driedger, S. Michelle | $499,860

Manitoba University of Manitoba 2021 CIHR Operating Grant

Why this research is needed: Systematically marginalized populations, such as First Nations/Metis/Inuit (FN/M/I), have been greatly affected by COVID‑19 in Canada. This is why people identifying as FN/M/I were prioritized for COVID‑19 vaccines. This policy was adopted Canada-wide, except in Manitoba. In Manitoba, only First Nations Peoples were prioritized for COVID‑19 vaccines. Inuit and Metis Citizens were to access COVID‑19 vaccines following age-eligibility criteria like all other Manitobans. This policy changed in May 2021 in acknowledgement of the “impacts of colonization on all Indigenous people in Canada”. Vaccines were handled differently during H1N1, where only Manitoba prioritized people of Indigenous Ancestry (FN/I/M) for H1N1 vaccine in Canada. Manitoba’s COVID‑19 vaccine policy has had a negative impact on vaccine uptake by the Red River Metis. In this project we aim to study: 1.Ongoing COVID‑19 vaccine decision-making processes among Metis Citizens; 2.Harms (e.g. COVID‑19 infection rates, health service use for COVID-19, lower vaccine uptake) created by a racist policy that disadvantaged Metis relative to all other Manitobans; 3.The impact on possible COVID‑19 cases if Red River Metis had been prioritized for vaccination earlier in the pandemic; and 4.Long-term consequences and possible loss of trust among Metis in provincial health systems. Methods: We will carry out focus group discussions with Red River Metis (obj 1, 2, 4) to examine Metis experiences given the provincial public health COVID response, and use whole-population administrative health and COVID vaccination data, updated monthly, to compare Metis experiences to all other Manitobans (obj 2, 3). Impact: As we enter the fourth wave, we need to document the experiences of Red River Metis relative to all other Manitobans. Only then might we be able to better understand how we can close the gap in Metis vaccine uptake.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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