Budget 2017 and Indigenous peoples

Indigenous woman

This year’s federal budget allocates $3.4 billion for Indigenous communities over five years.

The budget includes investments and support for First Nations in a number of areas including housing and infrastructure, education and training, policing, and health. The budget also commits resources to enhance, support and archive Indigenous languages.

Some of the measures include:

  • $8.6 million over four years, starting in 2017–18, to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada to support the development of Canada’s Indigenous tourism industry,
  • An increase of $90 million over two years, beginning in 2017–18, to the Post-Secondary Student Support Program for indigenous students
  • An investment of $50 million in 2017–18 in the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy (ASETS)
  • $39.2 million in 2017–18 to provide case management services for youth living on-reserve

Clean water

On the issue of access to clean water on First Nations reserves, the Budget document states that there are “201 projects underway that will lead to the elimination of remaining long-term (boil water) advisories by March 2021”. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada themselves say that more than $8 billion is required to fix the water problems in First Nation communities – this budget falls far short of that requirement.

This is not enough. Four years is too long to wait for clean water.

PSAC has been working with First Nations on its campaign demanding safe drinking water in First Nations communities. Access to safe and clean tap water for drinking and bathing is an absolute necessity. It is appalling that so many First Nations communities are not guaranteed this basic human right.

The government must:

  • Providing appropriate funds and resources to support the development of much-needed publicly delivered water infrastructure.
  • Supporting the training and certification of First Nation water operators.
  • Implementing more effective water treatment processes, guaranteed by the federal government.
  • Ensuring adequate education and training for First Nations to be able to make decisions about the treatment of their own water.

Education

While the budget provided $90 million for First Nations post-secondary education, there was no new funding for on-reserve K to 12 education beyond the $2.6 billion over five years promised in the last budget.

Teachers in First Nations communities still have fewer resources than their provincial counterparts. This is unfair to Indigenous children, who deserve a quality education

In a recent report on First Nations education, the Parliamentary Budget Officer PBO estimates that “new investments in education program spending announced in Budget 2016 could begin to address funding shortfalls for band-operated schools”. The report notes however, that this will depend on how new investments are allocated.

PSAC will continue to push for an equitable funding system for First Nations education.

First Nations policing

The budget proposes funding of $81.6 million over five years, starting in 2018–19, to address the most immediate needs of Indigenous police forces. However, the budget does not address the long term needs for First Nations policing.

PSAC represents many First Nations police officers and has been advocating for a stable funding formula so the police forces don’t have to guess what their funding levels are going to be every few years.

In Ontario, these forces would need a tremendous amount of infrastructure spending to be close to what other police forces have. The wages and benefits of First Nations police are also well below their provincial counterparts.  Most officers work alone in remote communities where it could take days for back-up supports to arrive. The threat to officer safety is constant.

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April 18, 2017
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