Iroquois Caucus says budget falls short in meeting necessary needs



    OTTAWA, Jan. 29 /CNW/ - The federal budget represents a missed
opportunity by the Government of Canada to strengthen its relationship with
First Nations, according to the Iroquois Caucus which represents seven
Iroquois communities comprising a total combined membership of over 60,000.
    Announced allocations in housing, water, health, and education fail to
meet Canada's minimum obligations under international human rights
instruments. Although some allocations may temporarily address emergency
situations in selected First Nations communities, the budget fails to make the
minimal structural changes necessary to immediately improve the lives of First
Nation peoples. For example, the government of Canada failed to remove a two
percent cap imposed in 1996 on all First Nation program and service
expenditures for basic operating funds for areas such as First Nations
schools.
    Rather than continuing to provide stop gap funding to First Nations
through social programming, the federal government fails to recognize and
accommodate First Nations lobbying efforts for a strengthened commitment to
revenue sharing on resource extraction activities on traditional First Nations
lands. The federal budget also fails to accommodate Canada's recent commitment
to address a severely backlogged First Nation land claims process whereby
claims valued under $150-million would be fast-tracked. The Iroquois Caucus
lobbied against the Specific Claims Tribunal Act as it expected First Nations
to surrender their interest in land for money and failed to outline a process
for claims valued over $150-million. The budget fails to address either.
    The budget also falls far short of the Kelowna commitment by previous
governments that called for an increased $5.5-billion to address the many
crises facing First Nations communities. While most Canadians take for granted
many basic necessities to meet their needs such as clean water, housing,
access to education and health, First Nations continue to exist in a national
economic vacuum.
    Canadians must remember that there are over 630 First Nation communities
in Canada. When one hears announcements of $515-million to support urgent
infrastructure projects on reserves, such as school construction, drinking
water and policing that may sound like a lot of money. Spread that among over
630 communities, many which lack even the very basic infrastructure like roads
and running water and the level of funds are clearly insufficient.
    The Iroquois Caucus calls on the federal government to meet their
fiduciary and legal obligations to consult with First Nations on assessing
their real financial needs to bring their communities up to national standards
in areas of skills and training, housing, infrastructure, post-secondary
education and health.
    Canada may be facing a recession, but First Nations have been living in a
depression for years.





For further information:

For further information: Joe Delaronde, Political Press Attaché, Mohawk
Council of Kahnawà:ke, on behalf of the Iroquois Caucus, (450) 632-7500,
joe.delaronde@mck.ca


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