04.14.2019 01:22 PM

Lisa Kinsella on the Ford budget – and indigenous people

OPINION: Ford government’s budget lacks commitment to Indigenous peoples

BY LISA KINSELLA

“There’s some positives to it and there’s some negatives and there are a few things that just don’t make any sense,” said Joel Abram, the Grand Chief of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians.

That pretty much sums up the Ford government’s budget commitments to Indigenous peoples.

Surprisingly, funding to Indigenous Affairs has been cut despite new initiatives announced in the budget.

And let’s not forget that the Ford government eliminated a stand-alone Indigenous Affairs ministry when it announced its first Cabinet last year, a move that many saw as the government signaling a weakening commitment to First Nations in this province.

Chiefs across Ontario met Ford’s budget with skepticism.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said: “The first budget by the Ford government makes many commitments…but is lacking in specifics… We are concerned with the funding reduction for the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs and the impact that it will have on the delivery of programs and services to our First Nations.”

This big ideas, smaller budget approach is indeed an odd way to manage Indigenous Affairs.

A consistent issue with this budget specifically, and the government more broadly, is that it states there are opportunities to ensure Indigenous communities benefit from the resource sector, but there are no details yet on how.

Following Thursday’s budget, Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald said: “There will be a continued need and opportunity to support First Nations through more substantial investments, to not only prevent inter-generational tragedy, but strengthen the success and well-being of First Nations communities and people.”

She could not be more right. This government needs to go further in its engagement with First Nations communities.

Since the federal Liberal Party of Canada formed government in 2015, there is greater awareness among Canadians about the issues many Indigenous communities face: housing, poverty, lack of clean drinking water and inter-generational trauma.

Canadians are now more aware of the effects of residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, as well as missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls — and a great many of us believe that we must right these wrongs.

Over recent weeks, we witnessed the removal from the federal Liberal caucus of two women who had been working tirelessly to do just that — Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott.

Wilson-Raybould, herself Indigenous, a lawyer and a former British Columbia regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations, has become one of the most talked — and written — about people in the country.

The subsequent drop in support for the Liberal Party of Canada and a renewed spotlight on reconciliation and Indigenous priorities should be a big lesson to Conservatives — both those in government and those who wish to form government.

It’s time to do better. It’s time to embrace reconciliation in a real and meaningful way. It’s time for all parties to make this issue a priority and not just a talking point.

This budget demonstrates that the Ford government hasn’t fully committed to First Nations and reconciliation. Not only is that a huge step backwards, it’s a lost opportunity to do the right thing.

— Lisa Kinsella is the managing partner of the Daisy consulting group and runs its Indigenous practice

On Twitter: @lisakinsella

6 Comments

  1. Steve T says:

    OK, so I will be the cold water on this article (sorry). Why does it seem that the equation is often (reconciliation = more money) ? The same thing seems to be the case with the pipeline discussions. Oppose the pipeline on alleged “environmental” or “traditional lands” grounds, but then when money is promised, suddenly the story changes.

    I think many Canadians – myself included – would be less cynical if the conversation was a bit more honest. If there is an interest in more funding, fine, let’s have that discussion. It is quite possibly warranted. But wrapping it up under the premise of “reconciliation”, or yelling “residential schools” every time someone expresses concern, just turns people off.

  2. Sam Davies says:

    Any thoughts, as a lawyer, on the PC plans to repeal the Ontario Proceedings Against the Crown Act?

    I personally find this much more dangerous than the SNC soap opera.

  3. Doug Brown says:

    Isn’t Indigenous Affairs Federal jurisdiction? Other than settling land claims, given that Provinces administer most Crown lands, what would a Provincial budget fund?

    Much like the disingenuous allegations that Ford cut funding to French language services, any uproar over this seems misplaced.

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