Federal Budget for the First Nations - "No real stimilus plan" - Ghislain Picard, Chief of the AFNQL



    Wendake, QC, Jan. 28 /CNW Telbec/ - Beyond the announcements of
investments in housing and infrastructure, the AFNQL denounces the absence of
measures that would allow tackling the major socioeconomic problems which
plague a very large proportion of the First Nations. "We have been living an
economic crisis on a constant and perpetual basis. Yet, we were never given
the opportunity to benefit from a real stimulus plan. All our sectors have
been living with a chronic under-funding for many years. The present budget
brings absolutely no change to the situation", states the Chief of the
Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, Ghislain Picard.
    The AFNQL is especially disappointed that the federal government did not
take the opportunity to remove the 2% cap imposed since 1996 on the expenses
made within the scope of programs and services intended for the First Nations.
This ceiling, in a context of a demographic boom in the communities, is
equivalent to cutbacks which have disastrous impacts on the finances of a
large number of communities. For example, the losses for First Nations schools
who are not bound by an agreement with Quebec, total close to $235 million $.
The sums announced yesterday do not allow First Nations to catch up on the
losses suffered by this cap, while it continues to widen the gap between First
Nations and Canadians. "The government must absolutely abolish this cap and
adopt a proper method of financial indexation; otherwise, First Nations will
never be able to come out of the crisis", stated Chief Picard, who intends to
invite the opposition parties to submit an amendment in this sense.

    Questionable Intentions

    The Chief of the AFNQL considers questionable certain intentions
formulated in the budget which went practically unnoticed. In fact, First
Nations and Canadians as a whole should be worried about the intention of the
Conservative government to eliminate the environmental processes requiring the
approval of the federal government. The AFNQL is also concerned about the
apparent willingness of the federal government to transfer to the provinces
several of its responsibilities towards First Nations. "This budget is far
from being an answer to a vision of sustainable development, far from
respecting the environment and it is still very far from recognizing First
Nations as partners of Canadian society", concluded Chief Ghislain Picard. The
Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador is the regional
organization representing the Chiefs of the First Nations of Quebec and
Labrador.

    Note to the Media: Over the next few days, the AFNQL and its commissions
will make public their reactions in more details on the different measures
contained in the Budget.




For further information:

For further information: Claude Picard, AFNQL, (418) 842-5020


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