AMC Statement on the 2023 Federal Budget
March 30, 2023
Treaty One Territory, Manitoba
Treaty One Territory, Manitoba – The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) issues this statement in response to the release of A Made-in-Canada Plan: Strong Middle Class, Affordable Economy, Healthy Future (Budget 2023).
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance delivered Budget 2023 to Parliament and the rest of Canada this week. The AMC notes that the NDP will support the current Liberal government and again calls on all federal parties to reform processes to respond to the needs of First Nations in Manitoba to meet their housing and infrastructure needs and needs for their economic and social development and self-determination.
Grand Chief Cathy Merrick said:
Over the last two years, the AMC has attempted to initiate a budgetary process with Canada that could lead the way for First Nations in Manitoba wellness and a new fiscal relationship. AMC tabled an Alternative Budget for First Nations in Manitoba in March 2022, submitted a 2000-word pre-budget submission to the Standing Committee on Finance in October 2022, and then sent out the 2023/2024 Alternative Federal Budget for Manitoba First Nations in March 2023. I want to thank the Assembly of First Nations Manitoba Region (AFN) for working with the AMC in creating the second Manitoba First Nations Alternative Budget 2023. We tabled this document in Ottawa well in advance prior to the budget to ensure First Nation voices are heard. It is very hard for the AMC to respond to a budget for a “strong middle class” when the notion of “middle class” is tone-deaf to First Nations realities.
AMC’s approach to the Federal Budget is the logical progression from the need to respect the Treaty and inherent rights approach on a Nation-to-Nation basis and operate within a context of fiscal self-determination was elegantly articulated in 1971’s Wahbung: Our Tomorrows. This way forward was wisely foreseen by First Nation in Manitoba Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and Leadership.
Canada’s Treaties with First Nations are International Treaties between sovereign Nations. Canada has acknowledged that a new fiscal relationship is overdue, and Prime Minister Trudeau has promised a Nation-to-Nation relationship that includes sufficient, predictable, and sustained funding. However, it has been over two decades since Canada agreed to the Framework Agreement Initiative process, and Canada has yet to commit to a new fiscal relationship between Canada and First Nations in Manitoba.
Canada’s COVID-19-related spending set a precedent for addressing the crisis-based needs of Canadians; however, First Nations experience immediate and ongoing crises that must be addressed within a consistent and transparent financial base. Another multi-year budget not specific to First Nations is not the solution.
Budgeting toward a “healthy future” necessarily includes funding for the social determinants of health, including housing and infrastructure, education, and the well-being of our children and families. Our federal budgeting process has identified the need for the spending of at least $8 billion for First Nations in Manitoba. Sadly, this budget does not meet the needs of our First Nations, and the AMC calls on all federal parties to do better in their commitment to a budget process that reflects a true commitment to a Nation-to-Nation approach to the implementation of Treaties and reconciliation consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
The fact remains that Manitoba is the beneficiary of significant transfer payments that belong to First Nations,” Grand Chief Cathy Merrick said. “The starting point for change includes Canada truly respecting First Nations’ jurisdiction and ability to develop transformative First Nations-led programs and policies through the administration of fiscal transfers presently overseen by the Province of Manitoba.”
On Clean Energy
“It is good to see Canada providing investment tax credits for clean technology and clean electricity. However, the nature of these incentives will benefit corporations, but they must also be designed to respond to the unique Treaty relationship it has with First Nations in Manitoba. This is particularly the case In Manitoba, where many First Nations have already paid in lives, lands, and ways of living with the impacts as a result of the creation of hydro dams and ongoing high-cost electricity bills. Canada should ensure that its clean energy incentives benefit AMC member First Nations.”
On Ongoing Pan-Indigenous Legislative Initiatives that Affect AMC Member First Nations
“It is unclear how the budget responds to ongoing co-development, including the development of legislation and legislative frameworks, strategies, frameworks, and action plans. This includes commitments to co-develop “distinctions-based” Indigenous health legislation, as well as First Nations policing, an Indigenous justice strategy, a mental health and wellness strategy, long-term and continuing care framework; an Indigenous housing strategy, action plan for the federal UNDRIP Act, will and estates, citizenship (Band registration and membership), return of fuel charge to First Nations, and an Indigenous broadcasting policy.
First instance, while Canada’s Indigenous Justice Strategy has provided some limited engagement funding, the budget does not include any funding that would assist First Nations in immediately addressing the over incarceration of First Nation people. The issues have been studied for decades, and the answer has always been the same. It is only through full recognition of First Nation rights (including the inherent right to self—government) that systemic problems of over incarceration can be adequately addressed. However, this budget does not provide funding to First Nations to assist in the development of their own laws and legal traditions, the development of Indigenous courts, the preparation of independent Gladue reports, or dedicated funding for the implementation of UNDRIP articles. Funding in these areas would directly assist in addressing the long-standing issue of First Nation over incarceration that the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Gladue described as a “crisis” in 1999.
The budgetary needs of AMC member First Nations in these areas are clear: provide funding directly to First Nations so that it supports their approaches to self-determination. However, it is unclear with the federal budgetary process how First Nations can move forward on these areas in the way that they would want to proceed.”
On First Nations Children and Families
“There is no clear or sustainable fiscal plan for First Nations working towards restoring their inherent responsibility to care for their children and families. While relying on funding announced in the 2022 Fall Economic Statement, the investments announced for First Nations children who want to exercise their own jurisdiction appear to be currently tied to the status quo under Indigenous Services Canada (ISC): parliament reviews and approves it every fiscal year, and ISC transfers it to the First Nation.
This has been one of the AMC’s concerns about An Act Respecting First Nation, Inuit and Metis Children, Youth and Families. While it is yet another (pan-Indigenous) piece of legislation affecting First Nations, it is not a statutory program, as the governing legislation provides ongoing funding directly to First Nations without an annual parliamentary appropriation. While it is suitable for First Nations who agree to utilize that act to assist them in exercising their jurisdiction, the federal budgeting process needs to be changed to fully respect First Nation jurisdiction for children and families with committed funding not contingent on the current federal budgetary process.”
On Housing and Homelessness
“There is a lack of adequate funding in the Federal Budget for housing for First Nations, both on and off reserve. The problem of homelessness does not only affect urban areas. Insufficient housing continues to exist on reserves, resulting in overcrowding. For many First Nations in Manitoba, overcrowding on reserves is a form of homelessness. While it may seem that tent cities only exist in urban centres, tent cities are also reported on First Nation reserves.
AMC has seen the intersection of mental health, addictions, youth aging out of care that leads to homelessness through the work of Eagle Urban Transition Centre, First Nations Family Advocate Office, and Ndinawemak Our Relatives (a place where unsheltered First Nations citizens can receive culturally appropriate services and support). For instance, 372 people died of a drug overdose in 2020, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. This is an average of 1 person per day, and 254 deaths were linked to opioids such as fentanyl. Service providers see more and more people daily under the influence of an opioid. Sadly, the Federal Budget does not meet the housing and infrastructure needs or the needs of homeless AMC member First Nations’ citizens residing on and off reserve
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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 151,000 First Nation citizens in the province, accounting for approximately 12 percent of the provincial population. AMC represents a diversity of Anishinaabe (Ojibway), Nehetho / Ininew (Cree), Anishininew (Ojibwe-Cree), Denesuline (Dene) and Dakota Oyate (Dakota) peoples.