THUNDER BAY – As Ontario moves ahead with the implementation of a Basic Income Guarantee (B.IG.) pilot, it will be critical to consider how this type of program will impact First Nations communities.
The first report of Northern Policy Institute’s B.I.G. series, Basic Income Guarantee and First Nations: Cautions for Implementation, by Dr. Gayle Broad and Jessica Nadjiwon-Smith, identifies key areas of concern, citing that without pilot-testing, sustained government commitment, and significant engagement with First Nations, the implementation of a B.I.G. may have unforeseen negative consequences for communities already experiencing the highest rates of poverty in the province.
According to Broad and Nadjiwon-Smith, First Nations communities differ substantially from non-Indigenous municipalities, with exceedingly diverse histories, cultures, and contexts – including vastly differing geographies, and remote access to urban centres and services. The report adds that Indigenous peoples in Ontario face different challenges in addressing social, economic and health indicators.
“Due to complexities facing First Nations, the face of poverty in these communities differs substantially from that in other municipalities and rural communities in Ontario,” states Dr. Broad. “Because of this, it is unclear whether First Nations will gain the same benefits from a B.I.G, as other communities in the province might.”
Beyond unique challenges related to poverty, the report identifies social assistance administration and First Nations autonomy as other factors for consideration, arguing the elimination of local administration could lead to a loss of culturally appropriate service provision and limit the range of services available for First Nations community members.
Furthermore, the report cautions that Canadian governments historically have underfunded and sometimes undermined programs in First Nations, and questions what evidence supports the likelihood that the implementation of a B.I.G. would be any different.
Broad and Nadjiwon-Smith conclude that these concerns may only be definitively answered through pilot site(s) testing with a comprehensive evaluation component attached, and proper discussion and engagement with First Nations, cautioning such a commitment should not be extended and then withdrawn, as governments have done in the past.
“Implementing a basic income guarantee in communities that differ so much from other Ontario municipalities requires thoughtful consideration and a great deal of insight that can only be provided through meaningful engagement with First Nations communities themselves,” concludes Broad.
This paper is the first of a series that will explore the various topics presented at NPI’s Basic Income Guarantee conference in October, 2016. Report topics include food security issues, potential models for a B.I.G. pilot, tax implications, and the potential impact on social innovators.
To view presentations from the NPI’s BIG conference and explore comments and feedback from participants, visit www.northernpolicy.ca/big
To view the report, visit www.northernpolicy.ca/bigandfirstnations