AFN Regional Chief Urges Government to Increase Funding and Allow Critical Input on Employment, Training Programs and Economic Development in Federal Budget



    OTTAWA, Feb. 18 /CNW Telbec/ - In order to address persistently low
employment rates, First Nations must increase their involvement in the
decision-making process on the design, development, and delivery of employment
and training programs. The AFN's 2008 federal pre- budget submission calls for
at least $1.3 billion to close the growing gap in education, employment and
training funding.
    "We have a young, growing population. We are ready and willing to be full
participants in Canada's workforce," AFN Regional Chief Wilton Littlechild
noted. "Regarding labour market training, First Nations program delivery
partners want to work with government to build bridges to brighter futures. We
are committed to this partnership but there needs to be attention paid to
budgets that have remained static -- for 17 straight years."
    Since 1991, First Nations have been administering employment and training
programs and services. The current Aboriginal Human Resource Development
Agreement (AHRDA) holders receive annual contributions that have not increased
since 1991, and, if adjusted for inflation, annual budgets have actually
diminished.
    As well, over the past decade there have been declining levels of
dialogue between the government and the First Nation service providers with
the exception of ever-increasing demands for reporting and auditing. Through
First Nation AHRDAs, over 260 community and urban offices provide service to
Aboriginal citizens living on and off reserve.
    "Continued delivery and enhancement of existing employment and training
programs is desperately needed to make any measurable impact on persistent and
increasing unemployment rates suffered by First Nations," said Alberta
Regional Chief Littlechild, who is also Chair of the Assembly of First
Nation's Chiefs Committee on Human Resource Development, and its Chiefs
Committee on Economic Development.
    "Existing First Nation AHRDAs have the experience and capacity to deliver
employment programs and services and can provide sound advice to determine
future program delivery," Regional Chief Littlechild further noted. "Bringing
together opportunity and building on existing resources and infrastructure is
a key part of the answer. The federal government needs to ensure proper
inclusion of First Nations, our citizens and our systems of government when
designing programs and strategies that are intended to serve us. There is
growing concern by our technicians whether advice is being heard."
    As an example, the government is considering a Request for Proposals
(RFPs) system to replace the existing providers in 2009 -- this was not a
structural change ever proposed by our AHRDAs, and there has been little
interaction on this issue to date.
    "Our goal has always been to reach employment parity with the rest of
Canada", concluded Regional Chief Littlechild. "In order to do so, we must
implement a long term strategy of 10 to 20 years for First Nations'
employment, training and economic development. We have a viable plan supported
by such recent reports as the Senate Report on Economic Development in First
Nations. We desire to partner with government in increasing contributions for
economic development in First Nations to enable our people to contribute and
share in this country's prosperity. But we must act now, our future is
Canada's future."

    The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing
First Nations citizens in Canada.




For further information:

For further information: Joan McEwen, AFN Communications Director, (613)
241-6789 ext. 242, cell (613) 324-3329, jmcewen@afn.ca; Bryan Hendry, Senior
Policy Advisor, (613) 241-6789, ext. 229, cell (613) 293-6106, bhendry@afn.ca


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