The Assembly of First Nations and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami say they are facing 30 per cent cuts to project funding from the federal government starting this year.

Forty-three aboriginal groups affected by this round of federal budget cuts received letters this week.


Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo holds up the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples during a news conference in Vancouver in January. He says many groups that will gather at the AFN assembly in Whitehorse in July will be affected by the cuts to project funding. (Canadian Press)

"It's very disturbing because it provides for a lack of security for our people and what that means is it’s difficult for us to plan ahead and provide for the services our people expect," said Bill Erasmus, Dene National Chief.

The letter states the objective of the changes is to ensure funding is directed at priorities and to eliminate duplication of programs. It says to be funded, projects in 2013-2014 must demonstrate clear and achievable outcomes and be linked to departmental priorities.

Starting in 2014, projects will be assessed by a national selection committee against a common set of criteria.

Last fall, the government announced core funding for national aboriginal organizations would be cut by 10 per cent in 2014, while regional organizations will face either a 10 per cent cut to their core funding or a ceiling of $500,000.

ITK says the cut to project funding, combined with a cut of its Health Canada funding and last fall’s core funding cut announcement will reduce its overall operating budget by one-third, or $1.9 million.

In a news release, acting president Duane Smith says this does not make sense, especially when Canada is chairing the Arctic Council. He said it reduces Inuit efforts in communities and their collaboration on projects.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo was in Whitehorse Friday to announce his organization's annual meeting will be held in the city next month.

Atleo said many groups at the assembly will be affected by the cuts to project funding but he's hoping it does not trickle down.

"My real first concern is that some of those organizations provide direct services to communities for health and safety on issues such as clean drinking water and infrastructures, so I have some deep concerns," he said.

"Our office, as we are always responsible for doing, we will work with the organizations. We hold national phone calls with the provincial, territorial organizations, to ensure that communities will not be impacted."

Atleo said the national office has already been cut 50 per cent and has had to move into smaller offices as a result.

Yukon's AFN regional vice-chief Mike Smith says the cuts show why treaty agreements are needed.