OTTAWA, March 29, 2012 /CNW/ - Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo commented on today's federal budget, titled "Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity".
"Achieving long-term prosperity means implementing the promise of the Treaty relationship and the full partnership it represents for all First Nations," National Chief Atleo said. "The investments in education in today's budget indicate that the voices of our youth are perhaps beginning to be heard but we must do more. We will be relentless in our efforts to ensure sustainable and secure funding for education. First Nations will seize this momentum to move forward to real reform and reconciliation. We will ensure our rights must be respected, our governments strengthened and our families enjoy safe and secure communities. The time is now"
Some of the key areas for First Nations in today's budget include a commitment to exploring new funding mechanisms for First Nations elementary and secondary education and investments of $275M over 3 years to support First Nation education; $331M for First Nations water infrastructure over 2 years; $33.5M to support First Nations commercial fishing; $12M to address family violence on-reserves; $88M to address flooding; $13.6M to support Consultation processes and a reference to $100M for Aboriginal mental health programs.
The budget of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development will be cut by 2.7%, though there are few details about any specific cuts to programs and services.
"Any cuts at Aboriginal Affairs must not come at the expense of programs and services for First Nations families and communities," the National Chief said. "First Nations have been pressing for a fundamental restructuring of the bureaucracy that reflects the Nation-to-Nation relationship and ensures First Nation control over First Nation interests. We can make changes to create a leaner bureaucracy so we free up resources to improve our communities while strengthening the ability of First Nation governments to work with their people to make decisions and plan for the future."
The National Chief also noted that First Nations will be seeking clarity on a number of announcements related to new processes and legislation including changes to environmental protection regulations and legislation.
"First Nations must be at the table on any discussions that could affect our lands, our lives and our rights," the National Chief said. "This is consistent with our Treaty and Aboriginal rights, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the principles of partnership and reconciliation we all committed to at the Crown-First Nations Gathering. We will move immediately to get more details on the nature and timing of any proposed changes and ensure the voice of First Nations is central, is heard and respected."
The National Chief stated that First Nations will continue to move on the urgent priorities facing First Nations.
"First Nations will continue to drive change forward," National Chief Atleo stated. "This budget makes some important investments but beyond the budget we made commitments at the Crown-First Nation Gathering and we must act on them. This means advancing Treaty implementation, resolving claims, strengthening First Nations governance, economic development and better financial arrangements. This will give life to reconciliation, inject wealth into the economy and create a stronger country for all of us."
For further information:
Alain Garon, Assembly of First Nations Bilingual Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 382 or cell: 613-2920857 or email [email protected]