Feds can do better: NAN – by Carl Clutchey (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal – March 25, 2013)

Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation says it has found little in last week’s federal budget to help First Nations position themselves “to be partners, investors and owners of the significant resource-based economy about to emerge from our treaty territories.”
In a news release following the release of Thursday’s budget, NAN Grand Chief Harvey Yesno said “Canada can do better” in terms of helping NAN communities realize “a long-term vision for prosperity and wealth.”

A post-budget analysis by NAN also found the document to be lacking in terms of addressing ongoing shortages of food, housing and police officers in NAN’s mostly isolated reserves in Ontario’s remote North.

“After reviewing (more than) $700 million worth of federal funding announcements related to First Nations outlined in the budget across many federal departments, the only direct benefit to the 49 First Nations of NAN is the announcement of $4.4 million over three years for Ring of Fire communities,” said the release.

Thunder Bay-based NAN said that while it applauds the $100-million earmarked for Nunavut housing projects, there was nothing for the 32 remote NAN reserves “where housing is limited.”

“A lack of housing (and overcrowding) continues to be an issue for NAN families,” NAN Deputy Grand Chief Les Louttit said.
The document, coined an “austerity budget,” is intended to help the federal government balance its books by 2015 and eliminate a deficit of about $1 billion.

In doing so, the Conservatives “ignored” NAN communities by offering no increases to “vital” programs like the Nutritional North Food Subsidy Program, said the release.

NAN is still trying to determine if more than $30 million allocated for First Nation policing across the country over the next two years will be enough to address “chronic underfunding” of policing services on NAN reserves, which “is a concern for the safety of our communities and our police officers.”

The agency noted there were no announcements regarding funding for mental-health programs to address issues like suicide and prescription-drug addiction.