FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION, Oct. 16 /CNW/ – Grand Council Chief John Beaucage agrees with two Lake Superior First Nation protesters that there is a double-standard in funding First Nations governance.
“People who work for our communities and organizations are doing twice the work of some federal bureaucrats for half the pay,” said Beaucage, attending a peaceful “fasting” protest at the Thunder Bay regional office of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. Matthew Angees of Wunnumin Lake, and Douglas Beardy of Muskrat Dam began fasting Oct. 10 calling for improvement to band-operated funding formula for education.
“Until we achieve self-government, individual First Nations and their political organizations are actually managing issues on behalf of the government of Canada,” said Beaucage. “If we decided today to turn those constitutional responsibilities over to Canada, do they think they could do it for what they’re paying us? There is no just reason why our people should not be treated equitably for doing that work.”
Beaucage called on the federal government to make immediate and “vast” improvements to the band-support funding formula.
“If we want to overcome our socio-economic challenges, if we want to overcome First Nations poverty – we need to invest in our children’s education,” said the Grand Council Chief. “In areas such as education, the government is leaving our people at a disadvantage.”
“If inadequate funding is forcing us to pay less for teachers, or nurses, or social workers in our communities, Canada will be guilty of entrenching First Nations poverty for generations to come.” Beaucage said that while individual First Nations are taking the brunt of funding shortfalls, their support organizations are also getting second-class treatment.
“Our First Nations governments are running on shoe-string budgets compared to non-native governments,” said Beaucage who, in addition to speaking politically for the Anishinabek Nation, also serves as president of the Union of Ontario Indians, the corporation that develops policies and delivers services for the 42 communities it represents. “In some cases, I know we have staff members doing the work of a half-dozen federal bureaucrats. We’re certainly not on a level playing field.”
The Grand Council Chief said organizations such as the Union of Ontario Indians and Nishnawbe-Aski Nation provide much-needed advocacy, coordination and direct services to their member First Nations. Together, the UOI and NAN represent most of the 134 First Nations in Ontario, and leaders of both organizations were on hand in Fort William to lend support to the fasting protest of Mr. Angees and Mr. Beardy.
Beaucage says he plans to address these funding issues with The Hon. Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada during their bi-annual Anishinabek-Canada Roundtable scheduled for December.
The Anishinabek Nation incorporated the Union of Ontario Indians as its secretariat in 1949. The UOI is a political advocate for 42 member First Nations across Ontario. The Union of Ontario Indians is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.