THUNDER BAY, ON: Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Stan Beardy stated that although the federal government announced increased funding for specific First Nation priorities, it does little to renew the relationship the federal government committed to at the Crown-First Nations Gathering.
“This budget signals that the federal government is hearing us but not really listening,” said Beardy. “The investments in First Nations are a good start, but it does not adequately address the shortfalls that plague our communities.”
While NAN recognizes the funds directed to improving water quality in remote communities, the federal government ignores housing issues. “Housing and infrastructure are major priorities affecting the health and well-being of NAN people. There are still people living in shacks and overcrowded situations as demonstrated most recently with Attawapiskat First Nation and many other communities in a similar situation,” said Beardy.
“With cuts to the Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) budget, the government needs to examine its own bureaucracy, while at the same time ensure that vital services and programs are maintained in our communities.”
In terms of First Nation education, new investments are needed to repair the current chronic underfunding. The government is moving towards more control over First Nations education, which contradicts the NAN Chiefs’ position of jurisdiction. With several NAN communities already in dire need of new schools, it is unlikely that $275-million allocated nationally over three years will meet the educational needs in the north.
NAN suggests that “By streamlining the environmental protection processes outlined in the budget, free, prior and informed consent may not be dealt with adequately. Shortening the Environmental Assessment process could lead to major conflicts on the ground. The budget failed to enhance government to government relations regarding First Nation Treaty obligations on natural resource revenue sharing”.
“The government is relaxing environmental protection protocols to make it easier for outside investors. We need enabling legislation that provides resource sharing agreements which would provide jobs and training and ensure economic spinoffs for the First Nations,” concuded Grand Chief Beardy.