Thanks to the hard work of our employees and the collaboration of our many partners, we have successfully implemented many different programs, ranging from the training of Crees for skilled jobs with Hydro-Quebec (over 50 Crees now occupy permanent positions), the rejuvenation of Cree community and family fisheries, the support of numerous cultural activities including summer gatherings and the enhancement of goose hunting facilities. This is not to mention the hundreds of kilometres of snowmobile and ATV trails already built throughout Eeyou Istchee.
On its 20th anniversary, Niskamoon Corporation salutes The Nation magazine and wishes it many more years of success and positive change.
Aboriginal Affairs lose the least in Ottawa’s 2012 budget
This year’s federal budget released March 29 is primarily focused on cutting spending and increasing growth in Canada. Although many programs have received a reduction in their budgets, Aboriginal Affairs and First Nations Development only had a 2.7% cut.
A large portion of the funding to key areas of First Nation development is going towards education. Much of the $275 million in funding over three years will go towards building and renovating schools with $100 million going to provide early literacy programming along with other services.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has suggested there is more money to come saying that this new funding is only the “initial step”. But the funding falls far short of the $500 million the Assembly of First Nations says is necessary to set Native schools on an equal footing with provincial schools.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo said in response to the budget announcement, “The investments in education in the budget indicate that the voices of our youth are perhaps beginning to be heard but we must do more. We will be relentless in our efforts to ensure sustainable and secure funding for education.”
Roberta Jamieson, president of Indspire, a charitable organization that promotes Indigenous education, stated, “The budget makes it clear that the prosperity of the country is inextricably tied to change for First Nations education.”
Services to students will also be receiving a well-needed boost. The funding will improve incentives for Natives both on the reserve and off with the renewal of the Urban Aboriginal Strategy. Jamieson said, “This badly needed investment in capital infrastructure will produce results, demonstrating why even more funding for quality school environments is so essential.”
The cuts in funding to Aboriginal Affairs amounts to 2.7% compared to the average reduction of 6.9% across all other government departments. Finance received the largest cut at 16%, followed by Safety at 9.9%.
Although the Canadian Healthcare Association (CHA) recognizes the importance of investments in education and water infrastructure, the cuts of 6.4% to health will reduce the funds accessible to medical research as well as other areas. The news of $100 million being allocated for the Aboriginal mental-health programs was also announced in this year’s budget adding some much-needed resources to the sector.
In regards to the cuts, Atleo said, “Any cuts at Aboriginal Affairs must not come at the expense of programs and services for First Nations families and communities.” The cuts the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development portfolio will amount to $252.6 million over three years.
The savings will be achieved by restructuring, a leaner bureaucracy and changes to business processes while maintaining and improving service delivery to communities.
The largest portion of the funding towards First Nations, $331 million over three years went towards developing water infrastructure to support the development of a long-term strategy to improve water quality in First Nations communities. Although any added funding is welcome it still falls short seeing as a national assessment commissioned by the federal government found that $4.9 billion over 10 years is the amount required to achieve an improvement and maintain the water systems.
Commercial fishing received $33.5 million along with $99.2 million to address the cost of permanent flood mitigation measures undertaken for the 2011 floods.
Also in the budget was an additional $12 million to address the issue of on-reserve family violence bringing the total budget up to $30.4 million in order to improve the lives of women and children on-reserve.
The other focus of the budget aside from cutting is to improve growth in the region. In this regard the government is proposing legislation to shorten the review time for major economic developments.
Along with $400 million to help private-sector investments in the region grow, $13.6 million will go to promoting consultations with Aboriginals through the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Increasing the dialogue between the federal and provincial governments and First Nations will ensure the region develops in line with the needs of its people.