The Speech from the Throne today made it clear that the relationship between First Nations and Canada is not a priority, nor will it ever be for a Harper Government. Instead of offering the real fundamental change that is needed to address the multiple, overlapping crises in First Nations like housing, education, water and food, more beads and trinkets were offered. These beads and trinkets were not even new, they represented old promised repackaged to look new – similar to how their past throne speeches, election promised and Crown-First Nation Gathering commitments read.
(3) Job opportunities for “Canada’s Aboriginal peoples” in the natural resource extractive industry;
(4) Renew efforts to address murdered and missing Aboriginal women;
(5) Continue dialogue on treaty relationship and comprehensive land claims; and
(6) Work with Aboriginal peoples to create healthy, prosperous, self-sufficient communities.
Similar to the last promise, the sixth promise is actually no promise at all. It is simply a restatement of their legislated mandate which appears on their website which reads as follows:
“improve social well-being and economic prosperity; develop healthier, more self-sufficient communities; and participate more fully in Canada's political, social and economic development.”
This has been the mandate of Indian Affairs for decades and they have failed their mandate year after year with no accountability. Promising to live up to only one part of their three-part mandate is not an encouraging sign for First Nations.
Very little of substance was offered First Nations in this budget. Instead, Harper will focus on television programming, streamlining e-mails and protecting dogs. The level to which the crisis in First Nations has been ignored is astounding given the United Nations Rapporteur’s recent visit to Canada which has highlighted some of the extreme living conditions and injustices in Canada. Similarly, all the Auditor General, Correctional Investigator and independent reports and studies have all been ignored. The situation of purposeful chronic underfunding of essential human services which leads to the pre-mature deaths of First Nations peoples remains Canada’s biggest shame.