OTTAWA – The federal government is putting billions of dollars behind its bid for reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples as a whole, but also addressing the distinct and individual needs of First Nations, Inuit and Metis.
Tuesday’s budget earmarks $4.7 billion over the next five years largely aimed at supporting Indigenous children and families, investing in housing and health, and propelling First Nations toward self-government.
Improving Canada’s relationship with Indigenous Peoples is the most pressing factor to ensure the country’s future is better than its past, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said, emphasizing the need to speed up self-determination based on the recognition of Indigenous rights.
“When it comes to renewing the relationship between Canada and Indigenous Peoples, we have a responsibility to do better, and to do more,” Morneau said in his speech to the House of Commons.
“Our shared future is one where Indigenous Peoples are in control of their own destiny, making their own decisions about their future.”
The budget commits about $1.4 billion over the next six years to support Indigenous children in foster care and promote family reunification.
The money follows an emergency summit on the issue held earlier this year between the Liberals and Indigenous leaders.
Indigenous children under the age of 14 comprise less than eight-per-cent of all children in Canada, but they make up more than half of all children in foster care.
“For all families and communities, there is no greater priority than ensuring the safety, security and well-being of their children,” the budget says.
A separation in the types and levels of support for First Nations, Inuit and Metis reflects the Liberal government’s shift two years ago to engage with each community and respond to their specific wish lists.
Inuit communities will see $27.5 million over five years toward eliminating tuberculosis in the North, $82 million over 10 years to roll out a health survey and $400 million over 10 years for housing.
Metis will see $10 million to collect and process health data, as well as $500 million over 10 years to develop a housing strategy.
The Liberals have also pledged a little over $100 million over five years to help Indigenous groups engage with plans to develop a new legal framework for reconciliation based on recognizing rights and reconstituting nations.
A fund set up by Gord Downie, the former Tragically Hip frontman and outspoken advocate on First Nations issues, will receive a one-time investment of $5 million to promote reconciliation and educate Canadians about the legacy of the residential school system.
Parks Canada will also see $23.9 million over five years to integrate more Indigenous content into its material, which the government says follows through on one of the 94 calls to action that came out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.