OTTAWA -- The National Association of Friendship Centres says that urban Indigenous people are being left behind in federal government assistance programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organization told the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health Tuesday that their centres have been overwhelmed with requests for help. But these local centres, like Indigenous Montreal, are struggling to provide services with limited funds and insufficient support from the federal government, said the National Association of Friendship Centres.

Ottawa recently pledged $305 million to help First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, including $15 million for organizations providing services to those living off reserve or in urban centres.

Conservative MP Gary Vidal argued on Tuesday that even though more than half of Indigenous people do not live on reserves, the organizations that provide services to them have received only five per cent of the federal funding.

Christopher Sheppard-Buote, President of the Association, finds it disrespectful to see how Ottawa has placed the burden of the application process on Aboriginal organizations.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 21, 2020.