ISC & CIRNAC 2024 Budget Cuts: A Dereliction of the Crown’s Duty to First Nations in Manitoba

March 12, 2024

Treaty One Territory, Manitoba

AMC Communications

Treaty One Territory, Manitoba ­­ The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) Grand Chief Cathy Merrick is calling for answers and accountability from both Crown–Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) Minister Gary Anandasangaree and Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) Minister Patty Hajdu, after learning that $4.1 billion dollars in funding from the two departments are slated to be cut over the next three years. This cut, amounting to approximately 20%, demonstrates a serious disregard for the Crown’s fiduciary duty to First Nations, particularly in critical areas such as the First Nations Child and Family Services (FNCFS) Program and Jordan’s Principle.

“It is unacceptable and irresponsible for the Ministers to unilaterally cut over $4 billion in federal funding when First Nations are already in a constant state of emergency dealing with mental health and addiction crises,” said Grand Chief Cathy Merrick.

In the midst of ongoing obligations and unresolved infrastructure deficits, particularly in education, Canada plans to cut $4.1 billion dollars without accounting for inflation. Despite assurances from the Ministers that the announced cuts would not affect service and program delivery, the AMC stresses that these cuts could not have occurred at a more inconvenient time.

“Cutting federal funding when so many First Nations already struggle to meet their basic human needs is irresponsible and morally reprehensible,” continued AMC Grand Chief Merrick. “This is not reconciliation.”

Health and economic outcomes for First Nations citizens continue to lag, and the disparity will only worsen with further cuts. Additionally, Canada risks facing lawsuit liability and compensation claims if it fails to fulfill Jordan’s Principle requests and necessary spending in First Nations Child and Family Services, which First Nations will vigorously pursue and advocate for.

In 2023, the AMC released the 2023-24 Manitoba First Nations Alternative Federal Budget to facilitate dialogue and collaboration with the Government of Canada. The alternative budget process is undertaken to improve economic and social development outcomes for healthier, sustainable economies, Nations, families, and citizens of all First Nations in Manitoba, consistent with Article 23 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which states:

Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development. In particular, Indigenous peoples have the right to be actively involved in developing and determining health, housing and other economic and social programmes affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programmes through their own institutions.

Canada’s legally binding fiduciary responsibility to First Nations emphasizes the crucial need for governments to consult with Leadership when making decisions that will impact their Nations. Canada continues to make significant investments in priority areas while consistently underfunding or cutting funding for First Nations.

“This demonstrates the Liberal government’s willingness to have First Nations fight for diminishing pots of funding every year,” said Grand Chief Cathy Merrick. “How can you fulfill a promise of closing the infrastructure gap by 2030 when you are cutting or returning billions to the Treasury Board?”

Through these departmental cuts, the government of Canada is showing a reluctance to make sustainable, long-term investments in the future well-being of First Nations. This action constitutes a breach of Treaty obligations and their fiduciary responsibility to the First Nations in this province.

The AMC urges Ministers Anandasangaree and Hajdu to provide transparent explanations for these drastic cuts and to be held accountable for their implications on the well-being of First Nations. It is imperative that the government of Canada upholds its obligations and commitments to First Nations, and the Ministers must address these concerns with urgency and sincerity.

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.