SAULT STE MARIE (February 26, 2008) – Grand Council Chief John Beaucage expected no significant new investments in First Nations communities by the Conservative government. As such, there were no surprises in the latest Federal Budget tabled today.
“The government has been in a relative ‘holding pattern’ and has not made any real movement in improving First Nations quality of life. I am not surprised that the budget didn’t include any significant new investments to First Nations communities,” said Grand Council Chief John Beaucage, leader of the 42-member First Nations of the Anishinabek Nation.
There were some bright spots in the budget, namely $147 million over two years to improve First Nations and Inuit health outcomes and integration with provincial health systems. Grand Council Chief Beaucage will be meeting with Health Minister Tony Clement on Saturday to present his vision for a new approach to managing First Nations health benefits.
Grand Council Chief Beaucage was also pleased to see $330 million in additional funds to improve First Nations water systems.
Moreover, First Nations were pleased to see substantial new investments in infrastructure and commitment to enhancing post-secondary education for all Canadians. Although these were not specifically allocated to aboriginal people, government must do more to give First Nations access to these new programs.
“So often, First Nations are relegated to one department and cut off from the rest of Canada’s budget,” said Beaucage. “We desperately need these infrastructure dollars to offset a budget deficit in First Nations capital programs.”
“We also need to give more access to post-secondary opportunities to First Nations youth and adult learners. These new dollars need to get to where they are most needed, First Nations communities,” added Beaucage.
The Anishinabek Nation remains optimistic and will be taking steps to ensure their priorities are moved upon.
In the next year, the Anishinabek Nation will be working with government on a number of new programs and proposing specific federal investments including:
- A new funding model for First Nations capital and infrastructure programs
- New incentives for generating alternative energy
- New incentives for business and economic development
- Improving social housing on-reserve
- Enhancing youth programming
- Addressing a critical shortage of police and public safety resources
- Developing new First Nations language programs
Beaucage says talk of a federal election will not change Anishinabek policy and priorities.
“We will not be deterred by a general election, as our agenda is consistent no matter which party is in power,” said Grand Council Chief John Beaucage. “We want Canada to work with us on this, in a true government-to-government partnership. As such, we hope to see these items included in the next federal budget.”
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.
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For more information:
Executive Assistant to the Grand Council Chief
Phone: (705) 497-9127 (Ext. 2249) or cell: (705) 498-5250