Reconciliation means federal government must follow through on spending promises
On Feb. 27, the federal government released its latest budget. It is the third budget by this Liberal government that promises significant new spending for Indigenous peoples – $8.4 billion in 2016; $3.4 billion in 2017; and now $4.75 billion for a total of $16.55 billion. Now we need “deliverology” in action. Hopefully, the third time is the charm in getting these significant sums flowing into First Nation communities in Ontario – from the north to the south – to create sustainable and healthy First Nation communities and People.
We commend Minister Philpott of Indigenous Services for advancing and advocating to secure the much needed funds for child welfare. The budget includes a total of $1.4 billion for First Nation child welfare over six years – this works out to $230 million annually across Canada or $360,000 per community.
While this is a first step towards change, much more needs to be done. Our chiefs will be looking for more details when we meet the minister in March, especially on how this new funding will enable our communities to bring their children back home.
At first glance, it’s unfortunate the support for much needed infrastructure to support all program areas seems to be omitted. We need investments in structural capacity and safe environment spaces for our growing capacity to deliver programs.
The $172.6 million for providing access to clean drinking water across Canada, gives us pause, falling short on the needed investment in Ontario, let alone across Canada. We look forward to seeing further details on this and how the federal government intends to keep in line with commitments made thus far.
Unfortunately, this year’s budget still does nothing to address the growing housing crisis across Canada. An additional $600 million over three years nationally is a drop in the bucket. Ontario needs $2 billion alone. Manitoba needs $3 billion to end their housing crisis. But we do see the skills and employment portion as a much needed support that can go hand in hand with housing, to ensure that citizens are able to live and work within their communities.
There is $189 million in new funding for First Nation communities to engage the federal government on the new Indigenous Reconciliation framework and legislation, announced on Feb. 14. This framework is part of a freight train of legislation that First Nations must deal with in the coming months. The big question remains, will we get run over by the train, or will we be able to actually engage and engineer the laws that will forever influence the future landscape of this country? We see this as placating to the modern treaty agreements and we don’t see our treaty nations reflected in the funding or new Indigenous Reconciliation Framework.
It will take time to fully analyze the budget and the potential impacts any new funding may have. As we set about this analysis, some of the continued work for First Nation leadership will include taking full control of the funding and services provided by the governments, so they can distribute it according their priorities and to create and sustain healthy First Nation communities.
ISADORE DAY, Wiindawtegowinini, is Assembly of First Nations Ontario Regional Chief.