Auditor General reports reveal data and funding levels not up to par when it comes to First Nations

May 30, 2018

Treaty One Territory, Manitoba

AMC Communications

Treaty One Territory, MB.  _ The Auditor General of Canada released its reports on Employment Training for Indigenous People – Employment and Social Development Canada as well as Socio-economic Gaps on First Nations Reserves—Indigenous Services Canada on May 29, 2018.

The government’s failure to provide complete and accurate information based on the countless reports they have gathered from First Nations means that First Nations, Canadians, and parliamentarians are not able to have the full picture of what is going on in our nations when it comes to education, health, well-being, and employment services.

“The Auditor General’s reports confirm what we hear regularly from our First Nations leaders,” said Grand Chief Arlen Dumas.

“Communities are required to spend so much of their time completing reports for the Government of Canada. It’s a shame that although they keep up with their reports, the government is failing to share the findings from the data that has been gathered on important topics such as access to education, graduation levels, health and well-being and employment services for First Nations people.”

Audits focus

One audit focused on Employment and Social Development Canada’s (ESDC) two Indigenous labour market programs: the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy and the Skills and Partnership Fund, both are referred to as “agreement holders” in the audit report. The other audit looked at measuring well-being on First Nations reserves, reporting on First Nations’ education results, and collecting, using, and sharing First Nations’ education data.

The Socio-economic Gaps on First Nations Reserves report explains that as of 2017, Indigenous Services Canada still had not provided First Nations and their organizations with access to education information and related analyses in the Education Information System. The department spent about $64 million to develop, implement, and operate its Education Information System.

“Rather than spending millions of dollars on building databases that are not being used to improve the quality of life for First Nation citizens, we encourage Indigenous Services Canada to allocate funds to help our young people access education in their own communities,” said Grand Chief Dumas. “We also encourage the Government of Canada to improve some of their outdated funding formulas to ensure that all First Nation citizens can pursue and access post-secondary education — this is a Treaty right.”

Old data

In the report Employment Training for Indigenous People, several problems were found with how ESDC managed the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy and the Skills and Partnership Fund. ESDC has been allocating funding to the programs based on data from 1996.

“That data is 22 years old. Statistics Canada reported the Indigenous population was 799,010 in 1996. By 2016, there were 1,673,785 Indigenous people in Canada. The funding has not increased in either of these programs. It’s disgraceful,” said Grand Chief Dumas.

Those statistics can be further broken down to 554,000 First Nation citizens in 1996. In 2016 those numbers grew to 977,230. These were the people who chose to identify. Since so many people choose not to self-identify, it’s likely these numbers may actually be higher. Even though the ESDC has the authority to adjust funding to the individual agreement holders who had been consistently successful in training clients and helping them get jobs, the audit found that funding amounts stayed largely the same year after year regardless of results or the changing demand for workers in the areas they served.

ESDC’s mandate is to work to improve the standard of living and quality of life for all Canadians by promoting a labour force that is highly skilled. They also “promote an efficient and inclusive labour market,” according to their website.

“I strongly encourage Indigenous Services Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada to move on the recommendations brought forward in the Auditor General’s reports immediately,” stated Grand Chief Dumas. “Our people know what we need to be healthy. The government needs to ensure that it is engaging with our nations and listening to the knowledge we are able to share.”

Read the Employment Training for Indigenous People—Employment and Social Development Canada here.

Read the Socio-economic Gaps on First Nations Reserves—Indigenous Services Canada here.