On July 13th, at the Annual General Assembly in Niagara Falls, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Bellegarde and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) Minister Bennett signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the work required to establish a new fiscal relationship.
The AFN’s 2015 “Closing the Gap” priorities document called for lifting the 2% cap on annual funding increases to First Nations and the establishment of a new fiscal relationship with the Government of Canada, including new fiscal transfer arrangements with equitable escalators for ongoing funding. In response to the AFN’s advocacy, the Prime Minister made this an important part of his mandate letters to Ministers Bennett (INAC) and Morneau (Finance). At the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly in December, 2015, the Prime Minister again committed to lifting the 2% cap and stated that, “It’s time for a new fiscal relationship with First Nations that gives your communities sufficient, predictable and sustained funding. This is a promise we made, and a promise we will keep.”
The first step towards this goal is carrying out the necessary technical work. A joint technical working group will be established under the MOU to prepare recommendations and options for the consideration of First Nations leadership and by Canada. The technical working group on fiscal relations is expected to report back to the Minister, the National Chief and Executive by December 31, 2017. A Chiefs Committee on Fiscal Relations also will be established to provide oversight and direction to the AFN representatives on the technical working group.
The recommendations arising from this work will be presented again to Chiefs-in-Assembly for review, discussion and direction before any further steps are taken. As stated in the MOU, it “is not intended to impede or replace any existing initiatives or processes of any First Nation” and “shall not diminish, derogate, abrogate or infringe any existing aboriginal, treaty, legal, inherent or any other rights of First Nations.”
A copy of the MOU is attached to this Communique. Additional information will be made available as the work progresses.