Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo
Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo responded to the 2011 federal budget delivered March 22, insisting that a new funding approach is needed to better ensure equitable opportunity, stability and safety for First Nation citizens and communities.
"First Nations continue our calls for a new approach that will transform the funding relationship between First Nations and Canada in a way that will support progress and productivity for our citizens and communities," said Atleo. "The current funding relationship undermines our abilities to plan, predict and effectively oversee critical service areas that provide safety and security in our communities. First Nation citizens do not enjoy the same level of service provided to Canadians by their governments and we do not have the same guarantee of stable funding transfers. Instead, we are subject to arbitrary allocations that are not guided by any overall plan and that do not match our urgent, pressing needs. In a budget aimed at 'stability', we still do not see a stable and sustainable approach and we will continue to advance a First Nations-driven plan for progress."
Announced in the House of Commons by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, the 2011 federal budget included modest references to a joint effort to arrive at "concrete and positive changes in First Nation education to bring greater success and opportunities for First Nation students", but did not include any investment. The budget also committed an additional $30 million over two years to the First Nation Policing Program. Lastly, $22 million is allocated for environmental safety standards and $8 million for deployment of clean energy technologies.
AFN presented a pre-budget submission to the House of Commons Finance Committee in October 2010 that set out a strategic approach based on setting a solid foundation for growth and development. The plan called for immediate investments in education, health and infrastructure supported by a transformation of the current funding approach to one that would ensure equity and sustainability.
Currently there is no legislated guarantee of transfers to First Nations and funding has been capped at only a two per cent increase each year since 1996. In contrast, provinces have statutory guarantees of funding and on average receive a six per cent increase each year.
"The stark reality is the gap is actually widening between First Nations and other Canadians. First Nations live with the very real and tangible results of a flawed federal approach that focuses on band-aid solutions rather than addressing long-term needs and solutions. We see it in over-crowded, crumbling homes, where people cannot trust the water that comes out of their taps," said Atleo. "First Nations will continue to advance our plans to move away from the Indian Act, based on our rights, jurisdiction and treaties, to build our economies, strengthen our governments and create safe and secure communities for our people to live and work."