Indigenous spending priorities unaltered in spite of slowing economy: Miller

The Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations says it’s business as usual in terms of Indigenous spending priorities in the year ahead for the federal government.

“Essentially maintaining the momentum,” Marc Miller, speaking at the Liberals’ cabinet retreat in Hamilton, Ont., said on Tuesday morning. “Making sure we’re paying those bills that have been accumulating over the last 100, 150 years. And closing the socio-economic gaps which are unacceptable in this country and continue to be so. A wide range of elements that do touch what’s generally described as, in short form, reconciliation.”

Miller’s remarks come as the retreat has been all about dampening expectations with Canada’s economy heading into a post-pandemic slowdown.

“There is still a lot of uncertainty in the world economy and that means that we do need to continue to take a fiscally prudent approach,” Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland said later in the day. “We still don’t know for sure how the plane is going to land. We do not know for sure how the Covid recession is going to finally play out.”

Miller said one of his department’s fiscal priorities is delivering the $2.8 billion promised as part of the Gottfried band class settlement that was announced on the weekend as soon as possible.

“This is a pretty innovative structure where a trust will be formed,” he said “It will be administered not by the Government of Canada but by Indigenous peoples themselves. We’ve structured this settlement so that when the court approves it, the funds will flow almost immediately into the trust mechanism that has been put together.”

The settlement includes 325 First Nations and is compensation for collective harms done to culture, language and heritage caused by the residential school system.

The agreement goes before the federal court at the end of February which will then be followed by an appeal period if approved.

The not-for-profit trust will be administered by a board of nine directors of which one seat will be held by the federal government.

“As an interlocutor, as being a proper conduit to the Government of Canada, making sure there is representation, in some cases the treaty partner at the table,” Miller said explaining the government’s role on the board. “It’s very important to have a place. It’s also very important to know our place which is to be in the background supporting Indigenous communities and those eight other votes will predominate.”

The Liberals’ Hamilton cabinet retreat wraps up on Wednesday.

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