Statement from the Ontario Regional Chief on the Federal Budget

    TORONTO, March 3 /CNW/ - The federal budget released on February 26, 2008
is extremely disappointing and fails to respond to the crisis situations that
are the reality in far too many First Nation communities across Ontario.
    This Harper government shows blatant disregard for the most basic health
and safety needs of our communities. The Harper government has focused on
issues that relate to their own ideologies and conservative voter base in an
effort to score political points.
    This government continues to ignore fundamental needs such as the severe
shortage of housing and infrastructure on reserves, and the funding crises in
education and policing.
    For years, First Nations have advocated for targeted funding to meet the
backlog in housing and to improve educational outcomes for the First Nations
population. These basic human rights are being knowingly ignored by the Harper
government as it continues to mastermind a political strategy to limit and
decrease the resources needed to address aboriginal issues.
    The Ontario regional office of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada is
forecasting a shortfall of $142 million over the next five years. Clearly,
this is a significant concern for the First Nations in Ontario. What this
means is that the federal government cannot even maintain the infrastructure
that exists in First Nation communities in Ontario. They certainly will not be
able respond to the new and growing list of needs. I am talking about basic
infrastructure like safe schools and homes.
    The Harper government continually points out that the federal government
expends $10 billion annually for Aboriginal programs and services. What the
Harper government fails to point out is that the federal, provincial and
municipal governments spend more than $500 Billion for the same programs and
services for non-Aboriginal Canadians. An examination of per capita spending
on aboriginal people versus the general population shows that the expenditure
level of First Nations programs and services is wholly inadequate and no where
near equitable. For example, First Nation schools receive, on average, $2000
less per student than all other public schools in this country.
    This recent budget announced a supposed investment of $660 million for
First Nations. When one looks at the fine print, the reality is that
$270 million over two years is the true amount. This amount is expected to
support needs in child and family services, education, economic development
and health. It is simply a drop in the bucket.
    When the Conservative government came to power in January 2006, they
pledged to "put wheels on Kelowna" following their refusal to honor the
targeted investments for health, housing and education agreed to in the
Kelowna Accord. This has not materialized and First Nation citizens continue
to be mired in poverty and the highest unemployment rates in this country.
    This is disgraceful given the decision of this government to provide
$60 billion in broad-based tax cuts over the next five years. This decision
has "emptied the cupboards" and essentially has constrained the ability of
this government to meaningfully tackle the challenges and needs that exist in
First Nation communities.
    This is beyond the realm of understanding. It is beyond frustrating. We
are a patient people but when is enough, simply enough? I am asking Canadians
to stand with us and support our ongoing efforts. We are not asking for more
than any other citizen of this country by seeking equality and a safe and
healthy environment for our children.

For further information:

For further information: Pam Hunter, (416) 597-1266, or Policy Advisor,
(613) 203-3233

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Chiefs of Ontario

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