APTN National News
NIAGARA FALLS – For far too long First Nations couldn’t plan ahead. Funding from the federal government changed year to year, meaning there was no way to know if a program started one year would exist the next.
A new agreement between the Assembly of First Nations and federal government hopes to solve that problem.
The AFN and federal government signed a fiscal agreement Tuesday at the AFN’s 37th annual general assembly happening over the next three days in Niagara Falls.
“It’s the understanding of communities needing to be able to plan. Having funding just one year at a time and not knowing if it’s coming the next year has made it impossible for communities to plan,” said Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett Tuesday. “We’re trying to work with First Nations to develop a system that will work better.”
Both Bennett and AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde said the signing of the agreement is end of the 2 per cent cap on funding that impacts programs like education and health. It will start flowing funding from the 2016 federal budget into communities as Ottawa earmarked $8.4 billion in funding for First Nations.
“Today we are moving to ensure the 2 per cent cap is gone,” said Bellegarde. “That funding cap has been in place for 20 years. That cap on potential. That cap on productivity. That cap on growth.”
He said the new agreement is expected to be one based on needs, on and off reserve.
“One based on long-term, predictable and sustainable funding,” said Bellegarde. “One that reflects your nation-to-nation relationship.”
But not everyone agreed with the new agreement, particularly AFN Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day.
Day told Bellegarde Monday he couldn’t support the agreement, also known as a memo of understanding (MOU), as he saw it being “rammed through”.
“I did not agree to the MOU,” Day wrote Bellegarde in an email Monday. “We are going to have to address this.”
Day called for an emergency meeting among AFN executive Monday where Bellegarde said all of the 11 member executive except Day supported moving forward with the agreement.
Bellegarde also said chiefs passed numerous resolutions to remove the 2 per cent cap.
“Because there was concerns we didn’t pass a formal resolution … I called an emergency meeting to clear the air. We did that and we got our motion to proceed,” said Bellegarde. “One abstention – Chief Day.”
Day declined to comment when APTN asked him to clarify his stance on the agreement.
The AFN and Indigenous Affairs will form a fiscal working group.
The AFN also signed a new policing agreement with the RCMP that hopes to start a begin a new relationship with the federal police force that patrols many First Nations.
It’s not binding to any community but done more so in an inspiration to start over said the AFN.
Bellegarde signed the agreement with Commissioner Bob Paulson also Tuesday morning.
As for the pending announcement on a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women Bennett said “we’re getting close.”
What seems to be holding up the announcement is getting all the provinces and territories on board. Bennett told APTN each one has to agree to the inquiry’s terms of reference and the commissioners picked by the federal government.