DARTMOUTH, NS, June 17 /CNW/ - In addressing the Chiefs of the Atlantic
Policy Congress today, John Beaucage, candidate for National Chief of the
Assembly of First Nations, spoke of the need to address First Nations poverty
as Canada's biggest social priority.
"There is no question that finding ways to work with us to find ways to
eliminate poverty of First Nations citizens is this country's major social
challenge," said Beaucage. "We need to work substantively on this issue before
it reaches pandemic proportions."
Beaucage said First Nations in the north and in eastern Canada have the
most urgent need. Many of these communities struggle with 80 to 90 per cent
unemployment, homelessness, overcrowding in sub-standard homes, extremely high
costs of living and must live off the land to feed their families. Beaucage
attributes these factors to the historical mistreatment of First Nations by
"Canada has failed to adequately care for Indigenous peoples despite its
fiduciary and treaty obligations. Indigenous poverty continues to be a black
eye on the face of Canada, one of the world's most prosperous nations. Many of
our community members continue to live in Third-World conditions, and many
Canadians are oblivious."
Beaucage's campaign platform includes a recommendation to change the way
First Nations governments are funded to a system of transfer and equalization
payments similar to the way in which provinces receive federal funding
"The federal government routinely sends billions in equalization payments
to 'have-not' provinces," noted Beaucage, "and these enhancements and changes
to government programs ensure that a social safety net is available for all
Canadians during their worst times."
Beaucage said that First Nations communities in Canada need to be given
at least as much consideration as the developing countries around the globe
which are frequently the beneficiaries of millions of dollars in foreign aid
During his campaign stop in Dartmouth, Beaucage announced elements of his
national plan to eliminate First Nations poverty within two decades.
- Reconvene a First Minister's Meeting on aboriginal issues, with the
goal of restoring the Kelowna Accord and secure a new commitment and
agreement from the Crown to work with First Nations on eliminating
First Nations poverty;
- In consultation with First Nations, develop a comprehensive plan to
specifically address the needs of northern First Nations and to
address child poverty;
- Make First Nation economic development a top priority in addressing
poverty and building sustainable communities and self-sufficient
- Create a "Blue Ribbon Committee on the Economy", consisting of
successful First Nations business leaders, academics and mainstream
partners to design a national master plan for the development of
First Nations economies;
- Recognize the treaty right to adequate shelter by increasing the
level of government funding and support to First Nations social
housing by at least 40,000 new housing starts within 5 years;
- Establish a new, modern Treaty implementation process with a focus on
implementing the broader provisions of the treaties, including
resource benefit-sharing agreements with First Nations;
"Renewed focus and effort are needed to improve the conditions in First
Nations communities," said Beaucage, who holds a degree in economics from the
University of Western Ontario. We can only succeed if we work together."
"We are not victims. We can and will find solutions on our own, but our
chances of success are much greater if we can count on the resolve, support
and vision of all Canadians. This country can only be truly prosperous if
everyone who lives here shares in that prosperity."
The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is the national organization
representing First Nations in Canada. There are over 630 First Nation
communities in Canada. The elected Chiefs from each First Nation will cast
their vote to elect the National Chief in Calgary, Alberta on July 22, 2009.
John Beaucage is a citizen of Wasauksing First Nation, and served as
Grand Council Chief of the 42 member First Nations of the Anishinabek Nation
in Ontario from 2004 to 2009.
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