Aboriginal Affairs department uses infrastructure funds to keep social and education programs afloat but still underfunded

Despite the fact that Finance Minister Joe Oliver announced 5 years of federal surplus today, Canada’s Aboriginal Affairs department is deep in the red, and inequitably underfunding services to First Nations.

Internal documents released from within the department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) show that the department has shifted half a billion dollars internally to cover shortfalls in social and educational programs and have drastically underfunded infrastructure as a result.

“The cost of education and social services for our kids cannot come at the expense of our ability to provide them with access to clean drinking water,” said Grand Chief Gord Peters of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians (AIAI). “Our kids are going without services that are essential to their growth and success in order to feed a federal surplus.”

Even with supports pulled from infrastructure funding pots, education and social programs both remain drastically underfunded.

“There is an increased demand for accountability and transparency from First Nations, but where is that same accountability from the government? Accountability between First Nations and the current government must to flow both ways.”

Grand Chief Peters also added that this lack of accountability represents a double standard. “If any one of our nations had mishandled half a billion dollars in this way, we’d be under fire and under third party management faster than you could blink.”

Since the 1990’s increases in spending for most on-reserve programs and services have been capped at two per cent annually. This cap is mostly consumed by rising inflation costs, and does not account for the rapidly increasing population of First Nations.

According to Census data, Aboriginal population growth is more than 5 times that of non-Aboriginal populations in Canada. With this kind of exponential growth rate it’s no surprise that a two per cent annual increase has left a funding gap that took half a billion dollars to fill.


  • The federal budget surplus projections are forecast at:
    • $4.3 billion in 2016-17
    • $5.1 billion in 2017-18
    • $6.8 billion in 2018-19
    • $13.1 billion in 2019-20
  • AANDC is responsible for about $7.9 billion of the $11 billion spent by all federal departments and agencies on programs for Aboriginal peoples in Canada
  • According to Census data, the Aboriginal population growth rate between 1996 and 2006 is 45% compared to 8% for non-Aboriginal populations

AIAI is mandated as a Provincial Territorial Organization (PTO) to defend and enhance the Aboriginal and Treaty rights of our seven member First Nations. Our member nations include: Batchewana First Nation, Caldwell First Nation, Delaware Nation, Hiawatha First Nation, Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, Oneida Nation of the Thames, and the Wahta Mohawks. Learn more at www.aiai.on.ca, on Twitter@AIAI_comms and on Facebook.

For more information, please contact Suzanne Morrison at smorrison@aiai.on.ca or 519.281.6238.