(Serpent River First Nation, April 11, 2019) “Today’s provincial budget – the first by the Doug Ford Conservative government – makes a point that the current system of federal transfers is ‘broken and not working.’ As a former First Nation leader, I sympathize with Finance Minister Vic Fedeli’s concerns. Nationally, First Nations are promised billions of dollars annually in programs and services, but it never seems to reach the communities.”
To quote today’s budget: ‘It is critical that the federal government treat Ontario’s businesses, individuals, and families fairly and support them through adequate transfer agreements, not more red tape and administrative burdens.’
“For First Nations in Ontario – and across Canada – this sounds very familiar – ‘red tape and administrative burdens’. Just like the provinces and territories, First Nations need to break free of red tape and bureaucracy in Ottawa,” said Day. “At the same time, First Nations should no longer have to sit and wait for federal and provincial budgets to treat our peoples like line items in a budget.
“Just like the Province of Ontario, First Nations need to assert our jurisdictions through long term reliable, sustainable federal fiscal transfers that will go directly to our own authorities, regions, and communities. For example, the British Columbia First Nations Health Authority will receive $4.7 billion in direct federal transfer payments over the next decade, with the Province of BC adding $84 million. This is First Nation health care delivered by First Nations.
“In 2017, the federal government announced that Indigenous Services Canada will download its funding and services, which includes health, to First Nation authorities and communities, within five years,” noted Day. “We now have a little over 3 years at the least to build capacity in our regions and communities in order to prepare to take control of our own services for our own peoples. This is how we will assert Nationhood.
“In closing, I am disappointed there was no mention of First Nations in today’s budget speech, other than the search for “willing Indigenous partners” to help develop the Ring of Fire minerals in the Far North. I predict that Ontario will have to search long and hard before our Peoples are ready to be open for resource development business. Our priority will always remain protecting the lands and waters for our children — and for all peoples across the country, and around the world.”