APTN National News
OTTAWA–The Harper government has hit the Assembly of First Nations with an about $1.7 million cut in a surprise move that is also expected to impact 46 other First Nation organizations.
The cut, which applies to this current fiscal year, was announced in a June 3 letter from Aboriginal Affairs deputy minister Michael Wernick to the AFN. A similar form letter was also sent to other First Nations organizations.
“It is going to seriously impact our capacity,” said a senior official with the AFN. “I am not sure how we are going to handle this.”
The funding cut targets money set aside by the department for so-called “discretionary project funds” made available for awarding on a “competitive basis,” according to Wernick’s letter, obtained by APTN National News. The department is slashing the pot of money by 30 per cent for all organizations.
The cuts will impact policy and analysis work around housing, infrastructure, water, treaties, emergency management, Indian residential schools, education and economic development. It will also impact salaries and travel expenses for the AFN’s executive committee along with the organization’s two annual meetings.
According to Wernick’s letter, the department will now narrow the criteria for projects that get funding.
“Proposals for project funding will be assessed against a common set of criteria by a national selection committee that will be looking for proposals that will yield concrete results and move shared priorities forward,” wrote Wernick. “This will help to ensure that available resources are focussed on projects that have a real and positive impact on the Aboriginal peoples they are intended to benefit.”
Ottawa had already moved to slash spending for First Nations organizations. This past September Aboriginal Affairs announced it was changing its formula for “Aboriginal Representative Organizations” and capping core funding for regional organizations at $500,000.
The AFN took a $500,000 hit to its core funding at the time.
The department said at the time it would be reducing funds for proposal-based projects.”
Wernick said in his latest letter that the funding cuts would not impact the delivery programs and services or for claims and self-government.
The AFN official said the full impact of the cut remains unclear, but it’s understood more reductions are expected next year.
“We are working hard to get details now and we are working hard to get all the information,” said the official.