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. And the impact for Indigenous families and communities across Canada will be great. Some of you live in remote communities, where it’s difficult to get supplies. Some of you are either affected by boil water advisories or you can’t use the water at all. And some 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, disenfranchised, Métis and Inuit, your health, social and economic well-being is our concern.That’s why we are working with our Provincial and Territorial Member Associations (PTMAs), our NWAC elders and 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 the information and resources you need during this challenging time. We will be providing minute-to-minute 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

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people and others cause illness in animals. Human coronaviruses are common and are typically associated with mild illnesses, similar to the common cold.

COVID-19 is a new disease that has not been previously identified in humans.

How is it spread?

Human coronaviruses cause infections of the nose, throat and lungs. They are most commonly spread from an infected person through:

  • respiratory droplets generated when you cough or sneeze
  • close, prolonged personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands

Current evidence suggests person-to-person spread is efficient when there is close contact.


Some people with COVID-19 have little to no symptoms. Some people may think they have a cold or flu because the symptoms are very similar.

The symptoms take up to 14 days to appear after you have been exposed to COVID-19. Experts believe the virus can be transmitted to others if someone is not showing symptoms, but this is considered less common.

  • cough
  • fever
  • difficulty breathing
  • pneumonia in both lungs

The Government of Canada has put together a self-assessment tool for more information about symptoms.

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, stay in a separate room if you can or stay 2 metres (6 feet) away.

Call your doctor or your local public health authority and tell them 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
  • stay away from others

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

You can still go outside for some fresh air, a run, a bike ride or to walk the dog, while keeping a distance of at least 2 metres (6 feet) from others.

You may be exposed if you:

  • travelled outside of Canada recently
  • were in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19
Additional counselling services
hand washing

Protecting yourself

At this time, there is no vaccine for COVID-19 and no natural health products that are authorized to treat or protect against COVID-19.

Keeping away from others is one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of illness during an outbreak.

  • Stay away from crowded places and non-essential gatherings
  • Avoid shaking hands or other common greetings
  • Keep away from people at higher risk like older adults and those in poor health
  • Keep at least 2 metres (6 feet) from others


  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available)
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Clean high-touch surfaces such as kitchen counters, TV remote, toilet and sink frequently with regular household cleaners or diluted bleach (1 part bleach to 9 parts water)

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)

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