First Nations leaders say federal budget fails to highlight Indigenous priorities

First Nations leaders say they are disappointed the new federal budget doesn’t focus more on Indigenous priorities.

“Canadians heard how the federal government plans to spend resources for the coming months and years,” Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Cathy Merrick said at a press conference in Ottawa on Wednesday. “Yet, this process is mired by a glaring omission and I was there yesterday to be able to hear and I did not hear any words pertaining to reconciliation, unfortunately.”

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland gave a 40-minute speech touting the benefits of the 2024 budget in the House of Commons on Tuesday but failed to mention either Indigenous people or reconciliation.

This did not go unnoticed by First Nations leaders such as Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief for Newfoundland Brendan Mitchell, who said the Trudeau government seems to be moving away from previous commitments.

“What I expected to see was a reconciliaction budget and we did not see it,” he said. “I remember being with the prime minister in large meeting rooms – two times at least – where he stated that his main or first priority as prime minister is to Indigenous people of this country and I was really hoping to see more.”

Last week the Assembly of First Nations released a report that says it will take $349 billion to close the First Nations infrastructure gap by 2030.

Ottawa does pledge $918 million over five years for Indigenous housing and community infrastructure but AFN National Chief Cindy Woodhouse Nepinak said this is not nearly enough.

“Analyzing the budget’s proposals for housing, policing, roads and water fall far short of closing the long-standing infrastructure gaps that create so many difficulties for First Nations people,” she said.

Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Grand Chief Abram Benedict added First Nations are running out of time for government to address this growing gap.

“We were already disappointed,” he said. “We see some new spending in different areas but we know the infrastructure in our communities continues to crumble. Overcrowding continues to be a reality for a number of our communities and for our remote communities it’s even worse.”

APTN News reached out to both the Métis National Council and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami but neither MNC President Cassidy Caron nor ITK President Natan Obed were available for interviews.

Both organizations released separate press releases on the budget where the MNC says it is pleased there is an investment to re-capitalize Métis capital corporations but ITK said it’s disappointed there is no investment to eliminate tuberculosis by 2030.

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