A number of First Nations tribal and regional councils in Ontario are facing budget cuts of up to 64 per cent to their core funding.
Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy is concerned that recent federal and provincial government cuts to the core funding of First Nations organizations will muzzle their voices.
“We know all too well that cutbacks are an attempt to minimize our capacity to speak out about our rightful role in the protection of the environment and our authority to provide free, prior and informed consent on projects in the natural gas, energy, and mining industries,” Beardy said.
The Chiefs of Ontario (COO) has already laid off 10 staff due to an 80 per cent cut to core funding from the federal and provincial governments. The reduction in staff will affect First Nations who rely on COO for critical policy advice, regional coordination and advocacy in the areas of youth, social services, and economic development.
Beardy also raised concerns about major federal funding cuts for specific claims research and development.
“I am perplexed as to how the Harper Conservative government can think that unresolved land claims (that will be the result of cuts to specific claims funding) will be helpful for third parties wanting to do business on or near First Nations’ territories in Ontario,” Beardy said. “It will, in fact, have the opposite effect.”
Tribal councils across Ontario and the country have also been hit with cuts to funding, including Keewaytinook Okimakanak with a 64 per cent cut in funding, Pwi-Di-Goo-Zing-Ne-Yaa-Zhing Advisory Services with 61 per cent, Shibogama with 54 per cent, Mushkegowuk with 53 per cent, Independent First Nations Alliance with 51 per cent, Windigo with 46 per cent and Matawa First Nations with 41 per cent.
“We’re implementing changes as we speak and we are going to have to try to operate within the base rate that we’ve been approved,” said Margaret Kenequanash, Shibogama’s executive director. “They have a (three) tier system. We fall under tier two ($350,000 of funding), so it’s going to have a huge impact I think over time. We’ve had to cut back staff and we’ve had to cut back certain services.”
Kenequanash said the Shibogama communities are already strapped for funding for any new services they are trying to deliver.
“So it will be a huge challenge, I think, for all of us,” Kenequanash said. “We’ve just got to work together to see how we can continue to mobilize.”
Kenequanash said the chiefs have been quiet on the cutbacks to date.
“I don’t know if it’s because the impacts haven’t been felt yet,” Kenequanash said. “The impacts of losing these services, the communities won’t feel that probably until a year from now.”
Kenequanash said the communities will find a way to survive with the cuts to funding.
“We’ve survived for hundreds of years,” Kenequanash said. “As First Nations people, we’ll continue to survive.”
The federal government’s new funding formula calls for tier 1 tribal councils, which serve an on-reserve population of less than 2,000 in two-to-five communities and delivers fewer than three ongoing major AANDC programs, to receive $200,000 per year.
Tier 2 tribal councils, which serve an on-reserve population of between 2,000 and 5,500 or serve six-to-eight communities or deliver three-to-eight ongoing major AANDC programs, are eligible to receive $200,000 plus an incentive of $150,000.
Tier 3 tribal councils, which serve an on-reserve population over 5,500 or serve nine or more communities or deliver six or more ongoing major AANDC programs, are eligible to receive $200,000 plus an incentive of $300,000.
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