Canada: Assembly of First Nations Calls for Respect and Fairness
(Ottawa, ON) – In response to the 2013 federal Budget released today, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo continues the call for transformative change requiring key investments and a fundamentally new fiscal relationship based on respect and fairness.
“Budget 2013 makes reference to First Nations in almost every section, which suggests that the unprecedented attention and engagement of our peoples is beginning to be heard, but the investment just isn’t there,” said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo. The January 2012 Crown First Nations Gathering and the commitments expressed on January 11, 2013 are critical to achieving meaningful and long-term change for First Nations. Budget 2013 affirms the Prime Minister’s commitment to high-level dialogue on the Treaty relationship and addressing comprehensive claims reform. “We will continue to press for direct engagement of First Nations themselves on full implementation of commitments in an urgent manner,” said National Chief Atleo. “Growing awareness of the issues will result, rightfully so, in growing expectations. This will continue until our people see real action and real results. The change First Nations seek will only be achieved once action matches words and we see fundamental reform of key polices and investments that make sense. In order to achieve fairness there must be respect for First Nations inherent rights and responsibilities, and the Treaty relationship must be implemented in ways that will see real results and change for our peoples – our children in schools and our families in adequate homes and safe communities.” The 2013 federal budget released today by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty recognizes that First Nations young people represent the fastest growing demographic in Canada at a time that the country is facing labour shortages. It also notes that First Nations are located in close proximity to major economic initiatives across the country – approximately $650 billion worth in development projects as noted earlier this year by National Resources Minister Joe Oliver. “Mutual respect and partnership reflective of our constitutionally protected rights and responsibilities are essential to achieving reconciliation and economic opportunity for all First Nations and all of Canada,” said National Chief Atleo. “First Nations must no longer be an afterthought, or victims of unfairness, inefficiencies and waste of a system that does not work. Gaps in critical funding and supports must be addressed –this is part of our work to transform the fiscal relationship and we will be unrelenting in achieving this as a foundation for reconciliation, justice and prosperity for First Nations and for Canada. The severe socio-economic challenges facing our peoples every day will only continue to worsen until we can achieve a broader commitment that addresses the failure of past unilateral legislative and policy initiatives, including the Indian Act and existing bureaucratic regime.” Some areas identified for First Nations in Budget 2013 include: $241 million over 5 years for training for youth on social assistance; $10 million in post secondary scholarships, renewals of First Nations policing, justice and family violence prevention programming and $155 million to support investments in First Nations infrastructure, an extension of investments in First Nations commercial fisheries and a reiterated commitment to exploring new funding mechanisms for First Nations elementary and secondary education to ensure sustainable funding. National Chief Atleo added that First Nations will be seeking clarity on the details relating to all budget announcements.