Federal budget links welfare payments to First Nation youth job training, focus on building workforce for mining sector

APTN National News
Ottawa – The federal government wants to force Aboriginal youth into the labour job market by linking training to collection of welfare according to the 2013 federal budget.

It’s offering up $241 million for employment training for youth but to qualify First Nation communities have to agree that recipients of the Income Assistance Program undergo specific job training.

This means youth between the ages of 18-24 can’t collect welfare without taking job training on qualified First Nations.

The government calls this “incentives” to participate.

“To effectively support and ensure compliance among on-reserve Income Assistance recipients,” reads the budget, “funding will be accessible only to those reserve communities that choose to implement mandatory participation in training for young Income Assistance recipients.”

The government said Aboriginal youth represent the fastest-growing demographic in Canada and are located near booming natural resource developments.

“Given the proximity of many First Nations communities to large economic projects, there is a tremendous opportunity to address some of Canada’s growing labour needs, while also improving the economic opportunities for the next generation of Aboriginal youth and their communities,” the budget said.

Of the proposed funding, $109 million will go towards “personalized job training to these recipients, and their Income Assistance benefits will depend on participation in training as per current practice in their province of residence.”

The other, larger, portion, totaling $132 million will go to First Nations bands to ensure the youth are taking the specific job training. First Nations agreeing to take part in the funding program will also have to follow the rules set out by their particular provinces that run these so-called incentive programs.

The Harper government calls this the First Nations Job Fund that will be controlled by Aboriginal Affairs.

It will also be used to create necessary on-reserve infrastructure, including job counselling support.

This is part of promises made by Conservative government in the 2012 budget.

The 2013 budget made no mention of eliminating the two per cent cap on education funding.

The budget does commit $10 million over two years to Indspire for post-secondary scholarships and bursaries for First Nations and Inuit student.

New education funding also include $5 million over five years to expand Aboriginal business studies at Cape Breton University in Nova Scotia.

Otherwise, the government is pushing First Nation youth to get off of welfare and into resource development jobs.

The government said the budget “confirms” last year’s commitment to consult with First Nations on the development and implementation of the First Nation Education Act by September 2014.

The government said they invest more than $300 million annually to support post-secondary education for First Nations and Inuit students, who they pointed out are less likely participate studies.

They also touted previous investments made since 2006, including building or renovating on-reserve schools and providing nearly 20,000 Aboriginal peoples with skills development and training.

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