Minister of Indigenous Affairs casts doubts on Sask. First Nation's vaccine deal

·2 min read
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller speaks during a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller speaks during a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Canada's Minister of Indigenous Affairs says a vaccine deal brokered by a Saskatchewan First Nation may not be legitimate.

Last week, the James Smith Cree Nation announced it had brokered a deal to secure six-million to 60-million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.

However, after looking into the deal, Minister Marc Miller says it appears the offer was false.

"Money isn't my worry," said Miller, talking to reporters on Wednesday.

"My worry is the health and safety of the people that would get that vaccine. So those are the considerations we take into this when we see these offers that may be very, very attractive and may indeed seem too good to be true."

The James Smith Cree Nation previously said it was using its right to sovereignty in submitting a letter of intent for the vaccines and would be asking the federal government for the money to buy them.

The First Nation said it planned to distribute the vaccine to groups like the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, the Prince Albert Grand Council and Meadow Lake Tribal Council.

Miller said it's extremely difficult for anyone to get access to any COVID-19 vaccines and that if there was another source available, Canada would be on top of it.

"I know the logistics and the incredible operations that Canada has deployed to make sure that safe, effective and free vaccines get into this country in a safe way," he said.

Last week, AstraZeneca told the Saskatoon StarPhoenix that the offer was likely illegitimate.

Miller said Wednesday that his department had been in contact with law enforcement and promised the matter would be investigated.

"A private company and not someone that is a member of the public service should be looked on with great scepticism and indeed great reticence."

Yesterday, the Saskatchewan government announced anyone 85 and older can begin booking vaccine shots by either phone or an online system beginning Thursday.