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Blue Blogging Soapbox
...rambling rants, thoughts and musings on mostly political topics - from your late night blogger.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

First Nations Kelowna shell game 
(en francais)

Kelowna Accord
5 years - $5.1 billion targeted to the following categories:

1. Education
2.
Children
3. Health
4.
Housing and Infrastructure
5.
Economic Opportunities
6.
Relationships and Accountability

Let's be quite clear about exactly what the Kelowna accord was. It was an agreement to fund initiatives under the broad categories listed above. None of the funding was allocated by the Liberals and while the accord talks alot about a "plan", this was to be developed by all signatories over the coming months and years. The actual accord is 19 pages of broad strokes and vague targets. Does anyone actually believe 19 pages is an appropriate plan to spend $5.1 billion dollars?

Now let's look at what Finance Minister Jim Flaherty delivered in today's budget:
Helping Aboriginal Communities
A New Approach

Government of Canada spending on programs directed towards Aboriginal people, including claims, has increased to $9.1 billion in 2005–06 from $7.4 billion in 2000–01, an average annual increase of 4.3 per cent. While federal programs targeted to Aboriginal Canadians have reduced disparities between Aboriginal people and other Canadians, unacceptable gaps remain.

The Government is committed to meeting the targets agreed upon at the fall 2005 First Ministers meeting with national Aboriginal leaders. The way forward will require a joint commitment by all parties to deal with the root causes and structural issues causing these socio-economic gaps.

The Government will work with Aboriginal leaders and provinces and territories to develop a new approach with workable solutions to meet the established targets. Strong accountability and governance structures will be essential to ensure concrete improvements in outcomes and to ensure programs are effective. This budget provides $150 million in 2006–07 and $300 million in 2007–08 for the following priority areas:

Education: Although Aboriginal students have made significant gains in educational attainment over the past two decades, the Government is committed to improving Aboriginal education outcomes as this is key to eliminating the socio-economic gap.

Women, Children and Families: The Government recognizes the pivotal roles that Aboriginal women play within their families and their communities and in improving socio-economic outcomes.

Water and Housing: Aboriginal Canadians living on reserve suffer from a severe housing shortage and a backlog in the renovation of current units. Many do not have access to clean and safe drinking water. To properly address these fundamental needs, it is essential to consider innovative solutions that could help address this chronic situation over the longer term.

Details concerning initiatives will be provided by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development in the coming months.
Addressing the Legacy of Residential Schools

The Government is committed to honouring the Agreement-in-Principle reached on November 20, 2005, with the legal counsel for former Indian residential school students, the churches, the Assembly of First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations.

In anticipation of a final agreement, $2.2 billion has been set aside for the common experience payments and for other programmatic elements such as healing and commemoration. In addition, provision has been made in anticipation of an improved Independent Assessment Process to address claims of serious abuse in the Indian residential school system, which would replace the current Dispute Resolution Framework. Compensation through the Independent Assessment Process would in all cases be paid by the Government following validation by an independent adjudicator.

The Government believes that this financial recognition of the often negative impact of the residential school experience, buttressed by support programs and compensation for those who suffered harm, will help former students to build a better future for themselves and their families in communities across Canada. Programs and activities devoted to truth and reconciliation and commemoration of the residential school experience should lead to a broader understanding among all Canadians of the impacts of the Indian residential school system.
Off-Reserve Aboriginal Housing

In order to help provinces address short-term pressures with regard to the housing needs of Aboriginal Canadians living off reserve, the Government is providing a one-time payment of $300 million, to be paid into a third-party trust, contingent on sufficient funds from the 2005–06 surplus in excess of $2 billion. The Off-Reserve Aboriginal Housing Trust will support investments to increase the supply of rental housing and enhance home ownership opportunities for Aboriginal Canadians living off reserve.

Pending confirmation in fall 2006 of the Government of Canada's financial results for 2005–06, funding will be distributed to provinces based on their share of the Aboriginal population living off reserve and notionally allocated over three years.
Affordable Housing in the Territories

The pressures on housing in the territories, where many Aboriginal Canadians live, are particularly acute. In order to help the territories address short-term affordable housing pressures, the Government is providing a one-time payment of $300 million, to be paid into a third-party trust, contingent on sufficient funds from the 2005–06 surplus in excess of $2 billion. The Northern Housing Trust will support investments to increase the supply of affordable housing, including rental, transitional and supportive housing in the territories.

Pending confirmation in fall 2006 of the Government of Canada's financial results for 2005–06, funding will be notionally allocated over three years and distributed among the three territories as follows: $50 million each for the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, plus an additional $150 million for urgent needs in Nunavut.

More details on the two trusts can be found in the section entitled "Restoring Fiscal Balance in Canada."

In total, Budget 2006 confirms funding of over $3 billion in support of Aboriginal Canadians.
Aboriginal Communities
A new approach: priorities $450 million
  • Education
  • Women, children and families
  • Water and housing

Addressing the legacy of residential schools $2,200 million
Off-reserve Aboriginal housing $300 million

___________
Affordable housing in the territories $300 million
Total $3,250 million

Excluding the residential school payments, that adds up to $1.05 billion out of the 5 year, $5.1 billion committed to in the Kelowna accord.

Along with the above is the clear statement:
"The Government is committed to meeting the targets agreed upon at the fall 2005 First Ministers meeting with national Aboriginal leaders."
So what is the response from First Nations:
"First Nations will remain in last place as a result of today's so-called "Building a Better Canada" federal budget. This disappointing budget does not begin to address the gap in quality of life between First Nations and other Canadians and could increase the gap through inaction." -- Phil Fontaine, Assembly of First Nations

"Despite years of hard work and great progress as we experienced with the previous government, Stephen Harper's Conservatives have not stood up for the Métis Nation. It is not acceptable to ignore the years of work which lead to last November's historic signing of the $5.1 billion dollar Kelowna Accord. The accord was endorsed by all provinces, territories and national Aborigional organizations and yet, despite receiving clear support for this investment and record federal surpluses, this new government has not made the welfare of Canada's first peoples and in particular, the Métis Nation, a priority." -- Métis Nation

"Our fear, suspicion and mistrust of (the) Conservative government to support the historic Kelowna Accord were well placed," said Chief Stewart Phillip, head of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. "Today, aboriginal people across Canada learned that Prime Minister (Stephen) Harper has a wooden heart to match his wooden smile."
Do First Nations want to continue generating self-gratifying headlines or actually work with the Conservative government towards fulfilling the commitments of Kelowna. The Liberal method of dumping loads of money on a problem along with fuzzy goals and targets no longer exists.

The Conservative government will be developing specific programs with clear goals and reporting mechanisms, much like the Plan of Action for Drinking Water. Over the last 12 years $2.5 billion was spent on aboriginal drinking water systems and yet 75% of reserves have water related problems and over 100 reserves are under boil water advisories. The Liberal shotgun approach to spreading money no longer rules in Ottawa.

Paul Synnott at 12:01 AM    | en francais | Go to Top|


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