Federal Budget 2015
The Conservative government tabled its federal budget on April 21. This Bulletin provides an initial assessment and analysis and a brief overview of the budget items of interest to First Nations.
The bottom line is that this federal budget is a missed opportunity – a missed opportunity to develop a comprehensive approach for change for First Nations and Canada. There is no significant investment and no plan to close the gap in the quality of life between First Nations and Canadians. For First Nations, this budget is mainly re-announcements and minimal renewals, most at reduced funding levels.
This is a status quo budget and the status quo is unacceptable. We know first-hand the urgent needs: more than 120 First Nations communities that do not have safe drinking water, on-reserve high school graduation rates of only 35%, more children in state care than at the height of the residential schools, over-crowded housing and the need for more than 130,000 housing units on-reserves.
We are attaching a summary of the announcements and areas that require further analysis. I do want to provide some information on First Nations education.
Funding for First Nations Education
You will recall that in February 2014 the Prime Minister announced $1.9 billion for First Nations education. The funding, however, was tied to Bill C-33, the so-called First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act. First Nations overwhelmingly rejected that flawed legislation, but we all agreed that investments in First Nations are urgently needed. In November 2014, the government confirmed $500 million over 7 years for First Nations schools. This amount comes from that original $1.9 billion, leaving $1.4 billion earmarked for First Nations education. This federal budget announces as well the renewal of $200 million over 5 years, starting in 2015-16, in the Strong Schools Successful Students Initiative.
The AFN pushed to ensure the $1.4 billion for First Nations education does not get re-allocated or re-profiled to other departments or for other uses. Federal officials did confirm to AFN officials that the amounts budgeted for First Nations education are still in place and can still be invested in First Nations education.
I will be meeting with Minister Valcourt in the coming month to urge him to do the right thing and resume discussions with the AFN about a mutually acceptable approach that will ensure the release of these much needed resources for First Nations schools. We are all fully committed to ensuring First Nations control of First Nations Education and an appropriate legal framework to support that goal in keeping with the direction of Chiefs-in-Assembly. I will keep you informed through all steps of this urgent matter.
In the wake of the 2015 federal budget, my overall message to the government and Canada is this: First Nations were not meant to be poor in our own homelands. This same government issued the apology for residential schools but, as we approach the final events of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we are seeing no action to give life to those words. We are calling for action, investment and collaboration on a real strategy for change. We will continue to push for change and progress with the public sector, the private sector and non-governmental organizations.
United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, April 20 – May 1
I attended the fourteenth session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) on April 27-28 (the UNPFII ran from April 20 – May1). While there, I had the privilege and responsibility to deliver a statement on behalf of a wide range of Indigenous peoples’ organizations and human rights groups from across Canada and around the world.
The statement calls on all countries, including Canada, to ensure that their laws and policies are consistent with international human rights standards set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We spoke the hard truth that too many states, including Canada, claim to respect Indigenous rights while putting in place laws and policies that undermine those very rights. We called on all States to uphold the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to work with Indigenous peoples to ensure all laws are consistent with the Declaration.
The full statement is available on the AFN website at:
We will continue to keep you informed on the outcomes of the UNPFII and all developments that our peoples and our Nations.
2015 FEDERAL BUDGET – INITIAL SUMMARY OF INVESTMENTS FOR FIRST NATIONS
AREAS WITH IMPLICATIONS FOR FIRST NATIONS REQUIRING FURTHER ANALYSIS