Tuesday's federal budget is proof the Liberal government is serious about fixing problems on Canada's First Nations, according to Federation of Indian Nations (FSIN) Chief Bobby Cameron.
"I have to say the treaty indigenous people of Saskatchewan and Canada, we're in much better shape than we were in the last five years, because now we have some investment, some progress and this is a good start," Cameron told CBC News.
In its first budget since winning the federal election last fall, Justin Trudeau committed to invest $8.4 billion in First Nations' education, water supply, infrastructure and an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women over the next five years.
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There's also $2.6 billion earmarked for improvements to primary and secondary education on reserves, plus another $2 billion for wastewater and safe drinking water supply on reserves. The government committed to end boil-water advisories on First Nations within five years.
Specifically, the budget proposes $141.7 million over five years for the monitoring and testing of reserve drinking water and $1.8 billion over the same time period for facility operation and maintenance.
Chief wonders how money will trickle down
Cameron said that while he welcomes the significant investment, what remains to be seen is how exactly the funds get from Ottawa to the First Nations who are now depending on it.
"Now we have to figure out the funding formula," Cameron said. "What is that going to look like, what's the governance structure going to look like and the accountability structure … those three components need to be in place."
The government also dedicated $40 million towards a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. Cameron said he's pleased with the work federal ministers did in consulting families ahead of the inquiry to pin down what the inquiry entails.
"For those who have lost a loved one or for those people still searching for someone, it gives them a voice. So a big shout-out and a thank you to Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Minister [Carolyn] Bennett for taking the time to meet, visit and discuss with family members, the ones who have lost loved ones," he said.