The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) responded to the federal Fiscal Update delivered by Finance Minister Joe Oliver Nov. 13 that projects five years of budget surpluses starting in the 2014-15 fiscal year. The chiefs organization wants urgent investment in First Nations families and communities to address years of under-funding and reallocation of funds for First Nations.
“First Nations people and programs have been under-funded for decades now and struggling under a two per cent funding cap since 1996, a cap that does not keep pace with inflation or our booming population,” said AFN Nova Scotia-Newfoundland Regional Chief Morley Googoo. “As a result we’re falling further and further behind. We see this in education, employment and health outcomes that are far lower than national averages. It affects our ability to build our economies and build healthy communities. The government has been lecturing First Nations about accountability but that’s a two-way street. The federal government knows it is under-funding First Nations and cannot just walk away from its responsibilities. First Nations will not stand for it. First Nations are the youngest, fastest growing segment of the population. Investing now will reap massive dividends for all Canadians in the very near future.”
Aboriginal Affairs internal documents show the department has reallocated about $500 million intended for infrastructure over a six-year period to cover shortfalls in social and education programs. AFN Alberta Regional Chief Cameron Alexis stated: “Recent information from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs proves that the department is knowingly under-funding essential programs for First Nations. Our people live with the results every day in deplorable housing conditions, poor drinking water or no running water at all and crumbling and inadequate schools. These documents show that Aboriginal Affairs knows it is not investing enough in First Nations education and says the amount should be doubled. The government should not be knowingly depriving First Nations children of opportunity or our communities of critical infrastructure. We need to seriously look at all options, including a new approach to resource revenue sharing consistent with the treaties. The surpluses projected by the Minister of Finance today provide the opportunity for a new start and new hope for First Nations families and this must be our priority.”