London, Ontario March 22nd, 2017 – In 2016 the Trudeau government made a promise to forge new relations between Canada and the Indigenous peoples. The original plan was for the government to invest billions of dollars over five years to close the gap on First Nations quality of life. The 2017 budget released on Wednesday invests an additional 3.4 billion to the already promised 8.4 billion and most of it will be focused on infrastructure and health and leaves gaps in key areas
The previous budget pledged $270 million over five years for health facilities within Indigenous Communities the 2017 budget seeks to invest $828.2 million over five years but the amount won’t begin until 2017-18. With $15 million being funneled towards harm reduction from drugs and substances the amount falls short of the $1.58 billion in additional funding requested by First Nations leaders. The increased funding is welcoming but will may not be enough for those that badly in need of assistance.
There are some notable disappointments in the new budget a striking example is the complete absence of the $150 million that the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordered Canada to invest to support First Nations Child Welfare. The new 2017 budget also commits only $89.9 million over the next three years to support language and cultural preservation in primary and secondary schools on-reserve, which is a decrease from the 2016 budget, which allocated $55 million per year for this purpose.
The 2017 budget seeks to invest only $118.5 million into communities in need of clean water, repairs, and housing over five years, which is not enough to accomplish the needs of all our people. Fortunately, government has remained committed to eliminating all Boil Water advisories by March 2021.
The government has brought about a detailed budget yet contains no real mention of public policy or how they plan to make good on their commitment on a nation by nation basis. While there is an increase in the money going to First Nations the amount is spread out over eleven years and so most will never see the light of day.