AMC Responds to the 2024-25 Federal Budget

April 16, 2024

Treaty One Territory, Manitoba

AMC Communications

Treaty One Territory, Manitoba – The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) expresses concern regarding the adequacy of the 2024-25 Federal Budget in addressing the critical needs of First Nations in Manitoba. Today’s budget fails to effectively address pressing issues such as housing, clean energy development, and systemic barriers hindering First Nations progress. The AMC underscores the urgent need for equitable funding and comprehensive supports to ensure the well-being and prosperity of First Nations peoples in Manitoba.

This news release details the AMC’s analysis and responses by Grand Chief Cathy Merrick for the budget’s implications and outlines key areas where further action is imperative for meaningful change:

It’s imperative to recognize the magnitude of the challenge in addressing the housing crisis facing First Nations across Canada. Shockingly, people in First Nations communities are four times more likely to live in crowded housing and six times more likely to reside in housing in need of major repairs compared to non‑First Nations people, as per Canada’s 2021 Census.

According to a 2021 report by the AFN, to bridge the housing gap, First Nations require 55,320 new housing units and repairs to 80,650 existing units, amounting to an estimated cost of $44 billion. Despite this pressing need, the 2024-25 federal budget falls short, allocating only $918 million over five years. The AMC emphasizes this critical need for funding to address the housing crisis, highlighting that chronic underfunding has left many homes on reserves dilapidated and plagued by mould issues.

Over the past five fiscal years, ISC and the CHMC have invested $3.86 billion in improving housing in First Nations. However, this falls short of adequately addressing the scale of the crisis, according to the 2024 Auditor General of Canada to the Parliament of Canada Report. From 2018–19 to 2022–23, funding supported the construction of 11,754 new housing units and repairs to 15,859 existing units in First Nations, representing only 21% of the new housing units and 20% of the repairs needed to close the gap.

The Auditor General further states that despite these efforts, there has been no meaningful improvement in housing conditions in First Nations. From 2015–16 to 2021–22, while the percentage of homes in need of major repairs decreased slightly from 20.8% to 19.7%, the percentage of homes requiring replacement increased from 5.6% to 6.5%.

“The AMC is disappointed in the inadequate budget allocation, and we call for equitable distribution of housing funds to ensure all First Nations have access to safe housing without competing for limited resources,” said Grand Chief Cathy Merrick. We must ensure adequate funding goes towards First Nations in Manitoba, where the housing crisis has been going on for generations. I’m also calling out the CMHC for perpetuating structural racism and using outdated census data to allocate funds, which risks further widening the housing gap.”

The anticipated cuts of $416 million over the next three years to Indigenous Services Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations are deeply concerning for the AMC and all First Nations in Manitoba. These cuts, which include reductions in bureaucratic inefficiencies, travel expenses, consulting fees, and some grants and contributions, could threaten critical programs such as Jordan’s Principle. Grand Chief Cathy Merrick emphasizes the need for the current government to prioritize the needs of First Nations in budget allocations, particularly in light of the forecasted decrease in spending on essential services and programs.

The budget allocation of $104.9 million over five years, starting in 2024-25, for health transformation initiatives is crucial to empowering First Nations to shape and deliver health services within their own Nations. It’s imperative that Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) ensures the full and transparent delivery of these funds to directly enhance the health outcomes of First Nations on-reserve.

“Ensuring the well-being of First Nations citizens is paramount. We urgently need increased investments in healthcare services,” stated Grand Chief Cathy Merrick.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs advocates for enhanced funding for dental care programs, legislation for national pharmacare, and improved access to mental health services for First Nations Peoples. Additionally, Canada must address racism and discrimination within the healthcare system through funding initiatives, which is crucial to rectifying systemic inequities faced by our people and improving their overall health status.”

The AMC acknowledges the vital role of transitioning to clean energy in combating climate change and fostering sustainable development. However, First Nations encounter significant barriers hindering the success of clean energy projects.

Clean energy initiatives often lack adequate funding to cover total development costs, impeding implementation. Remote nations rely on federal support to overcome these barriers, but current funding streams are insufficient and inconsistently distributed. Challenges like a shortage of skilled personnel and high equipment costs further hinder progress.

Despite initiatives like the Indigenous Loan Guarantee Program in Budget 2024, limitations on project eligibility and upfront costs remain obstacles for remote communities. While capacity-building efforts have begun, sustained support is needed to achieve diesel reduction goals set by governments.

The AMC appreciates recent efforts to prioritize capacity-building and community involvement. However, sustained support is crucial for First Nations in Manitoba to lead the clean energy transition effectively. The AMC urges the federal government to address systemic barriers, ensuring equitable access to funding, technical assistance, and partnerships. Collaborative efforts can drive meaningful change, benefiting both First Nations and the environment.

The AMC expresses concern over the lack of new commitments in Budget 2024 for policing and justice initiatives, highlighting the longstanding insufficiency of funding in these critical areas to meet the needs of First Nations communities in Manitoba. Grand Chief Cathy Merrick emphasizes, “We are particularly troubled by the inadequate funding for restorative justice programs, essential for addressing crime’s root causes and promoting healing and reconciliation. Manitoba alone requires $1 million annually to expand First Nations-led restorative justice programs, yet the latest budget fails to allocate such funding.”

Moreover, there is an urgent need for increased support for self-administered First Nations policing in Manitoba. Currently, $89.6 million is required to adequately sustain these essential services and ensure the safety and security of First Nations. The AMC emphasizes the necessity of prioritizing investments in policing and justice initiatives to address the distinct challenges faced by First Nations citizens.

The First Nations and Inuit Policing Program, established in 1991 and updated in 1996, aims to provide professional, effective, culturally appropriate, and accountable police services to First Nations and Inuit communities. However, reports, calls for justice, human rights complaints, and litigation have highlighted concerns and challenges associated with the program.

The Auditor General’s 2024 Report highlights that despite the additional funding of over $500 million announced in 2021 for Public Safety Canada to stabilize and expand the program, limited expansion was achieved. The RCMP, responsible for assigning dedicated officers to First Nations and Inuit communities under the program, faced challenges in fully staffing funded positions. In 2022–23, 61 funded positions in community tripartite agreements remained vacant.

The AMC urges the federal government to prioritize additional resources for policing and justice initiatives to ensure Manitoba’s First Nations receive vital support for their well-being and prosperity. Investment in these crucial areas will enhance community safety, reduce crime rates, and foster reconciliation with First Nations, contributing to the creation of safer and more resilient communities for everyone.

While the government has pledged $1.2 billion to enhance First Nations education across Canada, the allocated funds fall short of addressing the infrastructure needs of schools in Manitoba. Recent incidents underscore the urgency of substantial investment in educational infrastructure. For instance, the roof collapses at Thunderbird School in O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation and Chief Sam Cook Mahmuwee Education Centre in Tataskweyak Cree Nation, along with the rampant mould discovery at the high school in Garden Hill First Nation, highlight the unsafe and inadequate learning environments faced by students in Manitoba’s First Nations schools.

The AMC emphasizes the critical need for funding to address these infrastructure deficiencies.

Grand Chief Cathy Merrick states, “The government of Canada’s commitment in Budget 2024 towards First Nations education is a small step towards addressing the actual funding and infrastructure needs of First Nations schools in Manitoba. For too long, our schools have suffered from neglect and underfunding, resulting in unsafe and inadequate learning environments.”

The AMC estimates that a comprehensive investment of $10.1 billion in capital spending is required to address the infrastructure needs of First Nations schools in Manitoba. Despite the recent funding announcement, this amount remains insufficient to ensure safe and adequate learning environments for First Nations students. The AMC remains committed to advocating for safe schools and welcomes the opportunity to work collaboratively with Canada to ensure that these funds are effectively utilized to enhance educational outcomes for First Nations students in Manitoba.

Despite allocating funds for drinking and waste systems, none of the new funds are specifically dedicated to First Nations in Manitoba. The AMC calls for equitable distribution of resources to address the unique needs of First Nations communities in the province.

While Budget 2024 includes important investments in various areas, the AMC notes with concern the lack of updates on critical programs such as Child and Family Services, Jordan’s Principle, and winter road infrastructure and maintenance, which are essential for the well-being and safety of First Nations in Manitoba.

“We urge the federal government to prioritize and provide more commitments to these vital areas, ensuring that the needs of our First Nations in Manitoba are effectively addressed and supported,” concluded Grand Chief Cathy Merrick.

Additionally, the AMC recommends reading the AMC Alternative Federal Budget for further insight into the federal budget needs for First Nations in Manitoba, emphasizing the importance of prioritizing our needs in budget allocations.

For more information, please contact:  

Communications Team  
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs  

About the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs  

The AMC was formed in 1988 by the Chiefs in Manitoba to advocate on issues that commonly affect First Nations in Manitoba. AMC is an authorized representative of 62 of the 63 First Nations in Manitoba with a total of more than 172,000 First Nations citizens in the province, accounting for approximately 12 percent of the provincial population. AMC represents a diversity of Anishinaabe (Ojibway), Nehetho / Ininew (Cree), Anisininew (Ojibwe-Cree), Denesuline (Dene) and Dakota Oyate (Dakota) peoples.