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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Indigenous Peoples pay the price

BY Will Nicholls Mar 16, 2024

Just when it seems that things are going better between Indigenous Peoples and the government, news arrives showing that it isn’t so.

Yes, there have been some funding increases, but not nearly enough to address acute inequalities, especially for housing. The Liberals have budgeted $2.7 billion for on-reserve housing, but that’s far short of the $40-60 billion that is necessary, according to the Assembly of First Nations. 

The NDP noted in a press release that at the rate the present government is going, “it will take between 58-141 years to meet current needs.” Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu responded, “The government’s ambition is to meet the 2030 goal [made by Trudeau] of closing the infrastructure gap.” 

“But numbers don’t lie,” retorted Niki Ashton, NDP MP for Churchill–Keewatinook Aski in Manitoba, adding her numbers come from Hajdu’s own department.  

So, it looks like the overcrowding that is behind all kinds of health issues will continue. Dangerous problems like mould will continue unabated. In addition, the lack of funding to fix homes have led some people to using duct tape and cardboard to fix cracks in walls and floors. Not to mention homelessness and various other socio-economic problems.

One wonders why the problem wasn’t dealt with when things were a lot cheaper. Of course, that would have required forward planning and that is something difficult for any politician with a mindset fixated on a four-year term.

Indeed, now the federal government is targeting the ministries of Indigenous Services Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations for budget cuts. The feds say that they will target bureaucratic inefficiencies, travel, consulting, and some grants and contributions. Which grants and contributions to be cut are not identified.

Over the next three years, Indigenous Services is looking to decrease its total spending by $4.1 billion. They say this is because some budgets have run out or sunset clauses will be triggered for things like child and family services, infrastructure, Jordan’s Principle and the Child First Initiative.

The Manitoba Chiefs in a statement said Canada risks legal liability if it fails to support and spend the necessary money on child and family services and Jordan’s Principle, which ensures First Nations children can access essential health and social services. 

Why is this happening now? It appears that the Liberals are under pressure to spend more on a new pharmacare program, Canada’s increasing old-age population and defence, among others.

Given that we are once again being asked to pay the price of a budget to satisfy non-Indigenous voters, perhaps the added spending on the military might come in handy to deal with its angry Indigenous population.

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Will Nicholls is a Cree from Mistissini. He started his career off in radio and is still one of the youngest radio DJ’s in Canadian history, having a regular show on CFS Moosonee at the age of 12. Will was one of the founding members of the Nation, and has been its only Editor-in-Chief.