The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake Grand Chief said proposed funding cuts to the Indigenous Services Canada department will mean further government underfunding problems for Indigenous people.
“It’s disappointing. We just hope that this will not affect the Jordan’s Principle settlement, and we hope they don’t have to rob Peter to pay Paul in order to pay for it,” MCK Grand Chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer said. “In Kahnawake, we’re in a good place as far as being self-funding and this is why we want to have mechanisms in place to make sure our community’s needs are met and we aren’t dependent on the government. We feel like we are already underfunded so that will just make it a larger funding gap.”
Indigenous Services Canada is expected to drop total spending at the department from $23.6 billion in 2022-2023 to $16 billion by 2025-26.
Sky-Deer added she hopes that possible staffing cuts in the ISC department won’t have an impact on Kahnawake because the most important role ISC pays directly is to provide tax-exemption and ID cards to community members – and that has been a bone of contention lately.
“There have already been delays in the delivery of band cards, which our community members need to present for tax exemption at the point of sale. We’ve already seen an impact there in terms of delays, so it’s hard to see how this would make it worse,” she said.
Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) national vice-chief Kim Beaudin said funding cuts will just make lives of Indigenous people that much more difficult.
“We have a housing crisis already both on- and off-reserve,” Beaudin said. “In many cases, the federal government isn’t even living up to the treaties.”
Beaudin said he hopes to know what those cuts will mean and how they will affect those he serves.
“I just don’t know. It’s hard enough for people to get services now. It’s dumb. The whole thing is just stupid. They could just as easily take some of that spending from Corrections Canada or the justice department, which are unfairly targeting Indigenous people already. There’s a lot of fat to trim there. I bet they could start there,” he said.
Many people they say are already struggling to receive adequate services in First Nations communities and beyond and these cuts will only make things worse.
To add to Beaudin’s frustration, an internal government audit found ISC failed to spend $3.4 billion of its allocation last year.
“To make matters worse, they did an audit and found they hadn’t even spent a lot of the money they were supposed to spend. My hope is they don’t just forget to spend more money and then give themselves credit for good budgeting,” he said.
Kahnawà:ke Shakotiia’takehnhas Community Services (KSCS) executive director Derek Montour said with budget cuts necessarily comes gaps in delivery of services.
“I heard they want to cut something like 1,000 employees so that will probably mean there will be some gaps in service delivery,” he said, adding he hopes the budget cuts won’t mean a cut in the landmark Jordan’s Principle class-action compensation agreement. “You never know with Canada.”
Montour is fearful that even if the Jordan’s Principle settlement remains unchanged ISC might be forced to dip into their operating budget in order to come up with the cash to pay off the $20 billion in cash settlements that have been agreed upon.
At a press conference held in Prince Edward Island recently, Indigenous Services minister Patty Hajdu told gathered media that any cuts made at ISC would not have an effect on the delivery of services in First Nations communities and would come instead from curbing internal bureaucracy.
“That’s my commitment to First Nations people, ensuring that service delivery won’t be impacted,” Hajdu said.
By Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Sep 07, 2023 at 07:01