Federal budget monies should be immediate not spread out over years

March 20, 2019

Treaty One Territory, Manitoba

AMC Communications

TREATY ONE TERRITORY, MB _ In response to federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s fourth budget of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas said, “While we acknowledge the areas that the federal government has committed funding to, we were hoping for more specifics for First Nations in Manitoba.”

“The title of this budget is ‘Investing in the Middle Class.’ First Nations in Manitoba are far from being in the middle class income bracket, so how does this budget work for them in the immediate and over the course of the next six months until election time?”

Grand Chief Dumas added that he is critical of how many of the funding promises for First Nations peoples are contingent on the Liberals being re-elected in October 2019.

“It is really difficult to say what we will get here in Manitoba because of the way the budget is laid out. These budget plans often say ‘over 3 years’, ‘over 5 years.’ A multi-year budget is a bad faith negotiation. If Trudeau’s government was sincere in advancing reconciliation then they would support and show a desire for immediate change and make these investments now – and not spread out over years.”

On Advancing Reconciliation:
“While I appreciate the federal government’s efforts in identifying reconciliation and self-determination in the latest budget and support those plans, I would like to remind the Prime Minister and his government, that First Nations in Manitoba already know what is needed. Our past leaders left us a road map in Wahbung: Our Tomorrows, along with the numerous studies and reports that have been done. It’s time for all funding dollars to go straight to First Nations instead of being divvied out through transfer payments to the provincial government that do not benefit or service First Nations and their citizens.”

On Indigenous education:
“We need to keep in mind these are not new monies but ongoing commitments made to First Nations. We have been negotiating a new First Nations funding formula in Manitoba for K-12 that takes into account the true needs of delivering education in our First Nations, particularly those in northern and isolated First Nations. We have been successful in securing new and additional monies for our First Nations in Manitoba. A post-secondary strategy with sufficient and long term funding is needed for First Nation students who have successfully graduated high school and have the desire to go on to trades, university, college, etc. The Treaty right to education does not end at the reserve boundary.”

On Jordan’s Principle:
“While there is a commitment of $1.2 billion over three years specifically for Jordan’s Principle for First Nations to have access to health, social and education service, this amount is to cover the most basic of needs for First Nations children. This doesn’t address the full definition of Jordan’s Principle. Jordan’s Principle needs a sustainable plan to ensure First Nations and First Nation-mandated entities are able to ensure there are no gaps in services for First Nations citizens in the event that funding runs out or is not renewed in subsequent budgets.”

On Bill C-92:
“There is no funding commitment for First Nations to develop their own laws for child and family services. The government has been advertising that Bill C-92 is “enabling legislation” for First Nations across the country to develop their own laws but if there is no funding available to begin the process of developing laws that includes engagement, ratification and implementation, the legislation will become useless. There also should be funding for alternatives for Bill C-92, because if it does not become law, initiatives such as Manitoba First Nation’s Bringing Our Children Home Act, which is a viable regional alternative, should also be funded.”

On Canadians access to high-speed internet by 2030:
“The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs welcomes this announcement in the budget. High-speed internet is an important service that should be afforded to all First Nations in Manitoba, especially those in northern and remote locations.”

On housing:
“The government plans on investing into building more affordable housing. Most of the plan is based on middle income Canadians and not the low-income population who are the ones in need of affordable housing. If the government invests into private owners who will determine the rent prices and who will be responsible for renting these homes out? The building owners will benefit but our First Nation citizens still encounter discrimination from the landlords because there is a bias that First Nation tenants wreck their buildings.”

“We have been creating made-in-Manitoba solutions, working with Indigenous Services in our region to implement a number of initiatives that were announced in Budgets 2016, 2017 and 2018. Yet here we are still waiting on the First Nation Housing Strategy that was announced in 2016 and this is despite the serious housing crisis in our Manitoba First Nations.”

On Assisted Living:
“The government is proposing $35 million to improve assisted living on First Nations. That is a drop in the bucket when you spread it over 634 First Nations. Manitoba First Nations have been dealing with an outdated personal care home funding model for decades and have been covering the costs of this program for years because of the lack of funds. We want our Elders to stay in their home First Nations. We need to work with Canada on a long term care strategy as we have a large number of personal care homes on reserve that require support, wage parity for staff and enhanced services.”