Budget 2023 continues 'repetitive injustice' of underfunding First Nations, says national chief
RoseAnne Archibald welcomes money for MMIWG supports despite frustrations
The Assembly of First Nations national chief is calling the prime minister a "performative reconciliationist" and wants an economic new deal for First Nations following the delivery of a 2023 federal budget that she says continues a long-standing pattern of underfunding First Nations.
RoseAnne Archibald expressed exasperation Tuesday afternoon with what she said is a frustrating and unhealthy budgetary cycle that sees First Nations' "reasonable" funding requests continually denied.
"What we see the federal government do is chronically, intentionally underfund us, and so they're creating this cycle of poverty," she said in an interview following the tabling of the plan in the House of Commons in Ottawa.
"They're perpetuating an ongoing third-world condition for many of our communities. It's repetitive injustice. It's a deliberate pattern of harming our communities through underfunding."
Despite that initial reaction, Archibald welcomed the pledge of more than $100 million in Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland's latest budget for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
The budget also pledges $4 billion over seven years for a co-developed urban, rural and northern Indigenous housing strategy that will help Indigenous people living outside their home communities.
The spending plan offers a one-year $171-million top up for the Jordan's Principle program, which ensures Indigenous children and youth have access to essential health and social services without delay, and further pledges $827 million for Indigenous health.
It also promises to spend around $16 million over three years to help reduce the tuberculosis rates in Inuit communities.
It includes a $173-million package over five years for policy initiatives that help "return control and decision-making over the use of First Nations lands back to First Nations communities."
The spending plan otherwise emphasizes past commitments to Indigenous people, beginning its "advancing reconciliation" chapter with a checklist of prior cash pledges. Trudeau has previously promised to close the gap in infrastructure between Indigenous communities and non-Indigenous communities by 2030.
Over $60B needed for housing: AFN
The AFN said in its 2023 pre-budget submission that First Nations need $63.3 billion through 2040 to bring on-reserve housing to levels comparable with Canadians. According to the document, First Nations also need $20.5 billion for general infrastructure, $4.5 billion for drinking water and wastewater, $10.2 billion for green infrastructure, and $6.9 billion for education facilities, all over five years.
Archibald said if Trudeau intends to meet the 2030 infrastructure target, he needs to strike an "economic new deal" that empowers First Nations to share in the wealth taken from their lands.
"This prime minister is a performative reconciliationist," Archibald said.
"First Nations are not looking for a handout. We're looking for the opportunities that are the birthright of our people."
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) President Natan Obed previously told the Canadian Press he hoped to see a 35-year, $75-billion commitment for infrastructure in Inuit communities.
In its pre-budget submission, the Métis National Council (MNC) requested $97 million for Métis businesses, $893 million for a health benefits program and $1.17 billion for development of a Métis education program.
The Manitoba Métis Federation, which withdrew from the MNC in 2021, issued a statement Tuesday welcoming the $4 billion for the new urban, rural and northern Indigenous housing strategy.
"We look forward to working with our federal partners to make this happen," said the statement, which didn't comment on any other aspect of the budget.
The Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) called for "a baseline level of $15 billion annually" to support Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people.
The association denounced the budget in a news release Tuesday evening, decrying the lack of cash to address the rates of violence, over-incarceration and economic marginalization Indigenous women face in Canada.
"This year's budget doesn't surprise us at all. Year after year, the budgets have been consistently disappointing," said NWAC CEO Lynne Groulx in the release.
"With words but no actions, this government continues to show Canadians that Indigenous women simply are not a priority."