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Iroquois Caucus says budget falls short in meeting necessary needs

January 29, 2009

Ottawa - The federal budget represents a missed opportunity by the Government of Canada to strengthen its relationship withFirst Nations, according to the Iroquois Caucus which represents seven Iroquois communities comprising a total combined membership of over 60,000.

Announced allocations in housing, water, health, and education fail to meet Canada's minimum obligations under international human rights instruments. Although some allocations may temporarily address emergency situations in selected First Nations communities, the budget fails to make the
minimal structural changes necessary to immediately improve the lives of First Nation peoples. For example, the government of Canada failed to remove a two percent cap imposed in 1996 on all First Nation program and service expenditures for basic operating funds for areas such as First Nations

Rather than continuing to provide stop gap funding to First Nations through social programming, the federal government fails to recognize and accommodate First Nations lobbying efforts for a strengthened commitment to revenue sharing on resource extraction activities on traditional First Nations lands. The federal budget also fails to accommodate Canada's recent commitment to address a severely backlogged First Nation land claims process whereby claims valued under $150-million would be fast-tracked. The Iroquois Caucus lobbied against the Specific Claims Tribunal Act as it expected First Nations to surrender their interest in land for money and failed to outline a process
for claims valued over $150-million. The budget fails to address either.

The budget also falls far short of the Kelowna commitment by previous governments that called for an increased $5.5-billion to address the many crises facing First Nations communities. While most Canadians take for granted many basic necessities to meet their needs such as clean water, housing, access to education and health, First Nations continue to exist in a national
economic vacuum.

Canadians must remember that there are over 630 First Nation communities in Canada. When one hears announcements of $515-million to support urgent infrastructure projects on reserves, such as school construction, drinking water and policing that may sound like a lot of money. Spread that among over 630 communities, many which lack even the very basic infrastructure like roads and running water and the level of funds are clearly insufficient.

The Iroquois Caucus calls on the federal government to meet their fiduciary and legal obligations to consult with First Nations on assessing their real financial needs to bring their communities up to national standards in areas of skills and training, housing, infrastructure, post-secondary
education and health.

Canada may be facing a recession, but First Nations have been living in a depression for years.

For more information contact:
Joe Delaronde
Political Press Attaché
Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke
Phone: 450-632-7500

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