By Chevi Rabbit, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – Indigenous leaders have mixed responses to the 2022 federal budget tabled this month in Ottawa by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland.
Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief RoseAnne Archibald said the 2022 federal budget falls short in addressing the urgent and long-term needs identified by First Nations and that First Nations must share in the wealth derived from the land and resources of Canada.
“First Nations require economic reconciliation and a path forward that supports a process where First Nations benefit from the resources extracted from their lands and waters,” said the AFN National Chief.
She said all of the wealth in Canada is built on First Nations land. “Canada derives its wealth from First Nations lands, while First Nations seek investments from budget cycle to budget cycle.”
When First Nations are in a position to build their economies and have access to the wealth derived from their lands and waters, they won’t need to look to budget cycles for investments, she explained.
“First Nations need to be supported to build their own wealth and have access to the wealth derived from their lands and waters, and we need to build the agreements required to do this,” added National Chief Archibald. .
The federal budget identifies $11 billion over six years (average $1.8 billion per year) in new investment for Indigenous priorities and includes a $4 billion investment toward Jordan’s Principle and about $3 billion for First Nations housing.
Many of the priorities identified in the AFN’s pre-budget submission, such as governance, implementing the MMIWG Calls to Justice and non-water related infrastructure saw no new investments.
“I’m pleased to see investments in housing and to child and family services, specifically to support the full application of Jordan’s Principle, but overall investments fall short based on well documented research,” said National Chief Archibald.
“I will continue to work to ensure First Nations have the fiscal capacity to exercise rights, title and jurisdiction and that First Nations priorities are supported and advanced at every level. When First Nations people are in a position to thrive, so too will Canada’s economy and its social fabric.”
The AFN conducted thorough analysis of First Nations housing needs, identifying a required investment of $44 billion over 10 years. The $2.4 billion over five years for First Nations housing falls short of the AFN’s well-researched identified need.
The Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) welcomed Budget 2022’s investment of $845 million over seven years for housing across Inuit Nunangat, noting that it is three times the Budget 2018 allocation of $400 million over 10 years and ushers in a new era in housing investment for Inuit.
“There is a housing challenge across Canada, but the Inuit housing crisis is both uniquely acute and long-standing,” said ITK President Natan Obed. “This investment is a significant step in the right direction toward improving deteriorating housing stock and relieving widespread overcrowding across Inuit Nunangat which has contributed to devastating physical, social and mental health challenges.”
ITK is also encouraged by a commitment of $227.6 million over two years for Indigenous-led mental health services and the co-development of distinctions-based mental health strategies. Additional support for the implementation of ITK’s evidence-based and Inuit-specific suicide prevention strategy, the National Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy released in 2016, will result in more immediate and positive impacts for Inuit.
A number of other areas provide much needed support for Inuit priorities, noted the ITK in a statement, including:
Roughly $10.6 billion in spending to address past harms toward Indigenous peoples, to support healthy communities and to advance self-determination.
$209.8 million over five years to increase supports to communities so that they might locate and memorialize burial sites at former residential schools.
$29.6 million over three years to support Indigenous priorities regarding climate change mitigation and adaptation. Our homeland is experiencing some of the most significant environmental changes in the world and Inuit must set the agenda for any future adaptation plans and policies across Inuit Nunangat.
Plans to develop a National School Food Policy are also welcome, noted the ITK. Partnerships between Inuit and governments that respect and support Inuit self-determination and Inuit food sovereignty are necessary to ensure that food security measures are effective. “The Inuit Nunangat Food Security Strategy released in July 2021, calls for the creation of an Inuit Nunangat school food program and we continue to work on this with the federal government through the Inuit Crown Partnership Committee.”
ITK continues to advocate for an Inuit-Nunangat-specific approach to federal budget allocations. Implementing an Inuit Nunangat fiscal policy in federal budgets creates efficiency, cost savings, and more immediate positive impacts and benefits for Inuit that in turn benefit all Canadians.
‘We will continue to work towards enhanced federal budget planning informed by the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee,” concluded the ITK.
Meanwhile, this year’s low-spend budget offers little for off-reserve and non-status Indigenous people, responded Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) National Chief Elmer St. Pierre.
“Simply put, this Budget falls short for Indigenous communities across the board,” said Pierre. “Unfortunately, in their attempt to keep purse strings tight, the government has once again let the needs of Indigenous communities fall through the cracks.”
Although encouraging to see commitment to work through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to co-develop and launch an Urban, Rural, and Northern Indigenous Housing Strategy, the $300 million investment over five years is simply insufficient to cover the needs of Indigenous households living in urban, rural, or northern areas who are in housing need, noted Pierre.
Over 80% of Indigenous people in Canada live off-reserve, yet the amount allocated for this program is much smaller than the funding for First Nations housing on reserve, Inuit communities, and Métis communities.
CAP commended the government for extension of the COVID-19 Indigenous Community Support Fund, “which we have advocated directly to Minister Freeland for, and will continue to help our communities from coast to coast deal with the impacts of COVID-19.”
However, concluded Chief St. Pierre, “If the federal government is serious about their commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous communities, it’s past time they put their money where their mouth is.”