QUEBEC CITY, April 20, 2016 /CNW Telbec/ - The Minister responsible for Native Affairs, Geoffrey Kelley, provided an assessment today of the progress on the government's action plan for the Native Affairs portfolio over the past two years. "Recent events in Val-d'Or and in Nunavik have highlighted the seriousness of the issues faced by Aboriginal communities, and remind us that the challenges faced are significant. The progress made in several areas is encouraging, but we cannot yet say "mission accomplished". Work still remains to be done – there will always be issues to resolve – but I am satisfied with the progress achieved in the various Aboriginal communities of Quebec", stated Minister Kelley.
Measures announced in 2016-2017 provincial Budget
The Minister recalled the recent measures introduced in the 2016-2017 budget with a view to improving the situation of Aboriginal women, particularly those living in an urban setting. An amount of $8.9 million, spread out over a five-year period, will provide financial support for various projects proposed by Aboriginal community organizations, such as the Native Friendship Centres of Quebec, drop-in centres, shelters and organizations providing health, psychosocial or socio-legal services, or those aiming to improve student success.
The assistance provided may be used by community groups to reinforce and diversify their range of services, to improve their infrastructure, to acquire or maintain equipment or to open a new service outlet. It is important to emphasize that this assistance is provided in addition to the amounts paid to the organizations for their operations under the Aboriginal Initiatives Fund II (AIF II).
Minister Kelley also recalled that the amounts allocated to the special home renovation program for the Algonquin community of Kitcisakik were increased by $2 million over a five-year period. The Government of Quebec has already financed the renovation or expansion of 35 homes in the past several years, and today is making a commitment to do the same for the remaining 55 dwellings.
Natural resources file and the Baril-Moses agreement
On another note, Minister Kelley stated that he was pleased with the quality of the dialogue that has taken place over the past year with Aboriginal nations. In particular, this has led to the historic signing of the Agreement to Resolve the Baril-Moses Forestry Dispute with the Cree Nation. This settlement will now offer signs of hope for a better future for the forestry industry on the territory involved and discussions are ongoing with the Mashteuiatsh community.
Inclusion of Aboriginal peoples in new public policy
The Minister also mentioned that a number of government policies, strategies and action plans have recently been updated or are up for renewal, such as Quebec's 2030 Energy Policy, the Action Plan for Woodland Caribou Habitat Management, the Quebec Youth Policy and the action strategy to which it will give rise, not to mention the new Concerted Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Bullying.
"We will deploy all the necessary energy to ensure that the interests and specificity of Aboriginal peoples are taken into account in each of these files. Already, we have been assured of the participation of First Nations in the consultations on the renewal of Quebec's cultural policy, and the Quebec Youth Policy sets aside a specific place for Aboriginal youth. We are convinced that this formula will bear fruit, and have committed ourselves to continue working in partnership with the Aboriginal communities.", Minister Kelley added.
Events in Val-d'Or
The Minister mentioned the financial assistance of $6.1 million that was announced immediately following the events in Val-d'Or, a considerable part of which was earmarked to support the local Native Friendship Centre in its efforts to expand the services provided to its clientele, and to carry through with certain projects intended for the most underprivileged.
"We saw it as essential to work in association with the existing resources in order to improve services. I have visited Val-d'Or several times since the events of last autumn, and I can attest to the quality of the work being done to assist the underprivileged client groups, particularly women, by the Aboriginal leaders, the Native Friendship Centre and the local workers. More than ever, we are convinced that it is by working together with our partners that we will be able to improve the living conditions of Aboriginal people", commented Mr. Kelley.
The Minister recalled the concrete actions that have been carried out over the past two years, or that are underway, including:
- the construction work to enlarge the Willie's Place Drop-in Centre;
- the future work to develop an Aboriginal cultural experience site, Kinawit, scheduled to open this summer;
- the upcoming construction of 24 social housing units for Aboriginal families, scheduled to be ready by the summer of 2017;
- the implementation, by the Ministry of Public Security, of a direct hotline for Aboriginal women wishing to report any unacceptable acts ;
- assistance provided to Aboriginal women by Native Para-judicial Services of Quebec to assist them in taking steps to file a complaint.
Training and education
Minister Kelley also wished to underline the importance of supporting Native people in their efforts to acquire the skills needed to successfully enter the labour market. He noted the importance of introducing measures that are adapted to the needs of young people and to their environment. In this regard, he acknowledged the essential contribution of those involved in the Annual Convention on Perseverance and Academic Achievement for First Peoples. He also stated that he was pleased with the recent opening of the Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam regional adult education centre which promotes the academic success of Aboriginal adults, their participation in the labour market as well as the realisation of large-scale economic projects. Finally, he wanted to emphasize the Government of Quebec's investment of more than $1.5 million earmarked to facilitate the integration of Aboriginal people into the CEGEP and college education system.
Collaboration with the different levels of government and the Aboriginal leaders
In conclusion, the Minister stated that he was firmly convinced of the need to maintain effective ties of cooperation with the federal government and the governments of the other provinces and territories, as well as with the Aboriginal leadership, in order to achieve the common goal of improving the quality of life of Aboriginal people throughout the territory of Quebec, now and in the future.
Office of the Minister responsible
for Native Affairs
SOURCE Cabinet du ministre responsable des Affaires autochtones
For further information: Chantal Gauvin, Communications Advisor, Office of the Minister responsible for Native Affairs, 418 643-3166