Justin Trudeau highlights supports for Saskatchewan Indigenous communities

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Saskatoon Tuesday talking about supports for Indigenous communities. Global News/ Slavo Kutas

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Saskatoon Tuesday to highlight some of the measures in the 2024 federal budget benefiting Indigenous communities.

He spoke at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, discussing $21 million in supports for the Virtual Health Hub, led by the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies, and funding for primary care workers in remote parts of the province.

The budget also boasts more investment for Indigenous entrepreneurs and tourism through the Strategic Partnership Initiative, more money for Indigenous post-secondary education, and additional housing and infrastructure investment.

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He said nearly $243 million was allocated in the budget to create better access to post-secondary education for Indigenous communities, adding that since 2016 there’s been an almost 50 per cent increase in the number of Indigenous people with a post-secondary degree.

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“Our government is here as a partner. And through Budget 2024, we’re moving forward – together – to create more and fairer opportunities for Indigenous Peoples. These investments will bring opportunity, create jobs, build homes and continue our shared path toward meaningful reconciliation,” Trudeau said.

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One of the local projects highlighted in Saskatchewan includes $89 million for the Hatchet Lake all-seasons road project.

“Indigenous communities contribute greatly to Canada and are full of opportunities, but often don’t have the necessary resources to prosper,” said Dan Vandal, minister for northern affairs and Prairie economic development.

“With Budget 2024, we’re making the necessary investments in education and economic growth, and we’re helping to close the infrastructure and housing gap to give Indigenous Peoples from across the country the chance to succeed.”

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Vandal said there is more work to do, adding that he has spoken with local Indigenous leaders who have highlighted the need for more housing.

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Whitecap Datoka First Nation Chief Darcy Bear spoke at the event, saying there needs to be investment in people.

He said the Virtual Health Hub will change public health care, making it more efficient and effective.

Bear gave the example of a pilot project at the Parkridge Centre care home in Saskatoon, saying it reduced the number of people sent to the emergency room from 56 to eight.

When asked how the federal government will make an impact on Saskatchewan when it comes to homelessness, mental health and addictions, Trudeau spoke about last year’s investments, as well as additional investment in this year’s budget.

He said the federal government is working in partnership with other levels of government, but noted they’ll be pushing other levels to invest more as well.

“As much as the federal government can do, we can’t do it alone, which is why we’re encouraging provinces like Saskatchewan and municipalities to look for ways to unlock more public lands to build more homes, particularly supportive housing for people who have particular needs.”

When asked why there was no meeting with Premier Scott Moe, Trudeau said they let the premier’s office know, but no meeting was needed right now.

He stressed that while he disagrees with the provincial government refusing to pay the federal government some of the carbon price, the carbon rebate money going to Saskatchewan families won’t be impacted.

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“The Canada Revenue Agency has ways of ensuring that money that is owed to them is eventually collected,” Trudeau said.

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