UOI OFFICES, Nipissing First Nation, March 30, 2012 /CNW/ - The Harper government's March 29 budget looks like more of a piecemeal approach to dealing with First Nations issues that contributes to the entrenchment of poverty, poor health, and underemployment in Anishinabek Nation communities, says Lake Huron Regional Grand Chief Isadore Day.
"While a federal budget allocation of $275 million over three years for First Nations education is a good step in the right direction, the government's own studies say it will take double that amount right now just to give our kids the same chance as other Canadians," said Day, on behalf of the 39 member communities of the Anishinabek Nation. "Giving our youth equal educational opportunities is the key to us making living conditions better for the 60,000 citizens in our communities."
He noted that this week's Ontario budget pledged no funds, but said the province would provide the educational expertise to properly allocate the badly-needed investment in aboriginal education that it urged the federal government to make in its budget.
"We sincerely hope that Canada's commitment to start the process of adequately funding First Nations students also demonstrates a commitment to successfully complete 13 years of negotiations with the Anishinabek on the creation of our own education body," added Chief Day.
Chief Day, Serpent River First Nation, also cited the budget commitment to spend $330 million to build and renovate water infrastructure on the 600 First Nations across Canada.
"About 80 per cent of the people living in one of our member communities in the heart of southern Ontario are relying on wells as their main source of drinking water. No family living in Canada should be without a reliable source of potable water."
More important than the budget's spending plans, noted Day, is that the budget reinforces the Harper government's refusal to recognize the inherent and treaty rights of First Nations peoples to govern their own affairs.
"Our citizens should not have to learn by watching a federal budget discussion on television that Ottawa is moving ahead with a plan to privatize reserve land, or shut down the First Nations Statistical Institute. The Anishinabek reminded the prime minister at the January Crown-First Nations Gathering in Ottawa that we expect Canada to live up to the promises made in the 1763 Royal Proclamation and the 1764 Treaty of Niagara Wampum Belt , which we laid out in front of him.
"Our relationship with the Crown in Canada is a nation-to-nation one. Until governments recognize that, Canada will never achieve its full potential, nor enjoy the prosperity we should all be sharing."
The Anishinabek Nation established the Union of Ontario Indians as its secretariat in 1949. The UOI is a political advocate for 39 member communities across Ontario, representing approximately 60,000 people. The Union of Ontario Indians is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.
For further information:
Director of Communications
Union of Ontario Indians
P.O. Box 711
North Bay, ON
Telephone: 705-497-9127 Ext. 2272
E-Mail: [email protected]