Disappointing Federal Budget Does not Include First Nations in a “Stronger, Better” Canada
March 27, 2007
First Nations leaders across the country are outraged and deeply disheartened by the lack of investment for our peoples in last Monday’s federal budget.
Frankly, our people do not see any reason to believe that the government cares about the shameful conditions of First Nations. This federal budget goes far towards cutting taxes and paying down the national debt – but there is no mention of dealing with the huge debt to First Nations in the form of nearly 1,000 outstanding land claims. The recent Senate Report on specific claims – Negotiation or Confrontation: It’s Canada’s Choice – the title says it all.
There is $69 million in new spending over the next two years, and an additional $300 million which was announced in last year’s budget to support private home ownership for First Nations. It is notable that there is no comprehensive plan or investment in our children, our families, and our communities. Instead, we see billions of dollars in spending on everything from museum interns, to foreign workers, and to tax cuts benefiting the wealthiest in this country.
Even more troubling, perhaps, is the ongoing implication in the budget that somehow First Nations already receive enough, and that it is not being managed well. I call on all First Nations leaders to join me to reject this argument. We have to show them that the $9.1 billion they repeat so often does not get to our communities. In fact, our governments have suffered under declining resources because of discriminatory fiscal treatment, and that our schools, our community centers, our essential community services, and our people are suffering as a result.
Canadians believe in fairness, and trust that no one should be left behind in prosperous times. I can only believe that they would be alarmed if they knew about the devastating consequences for First Nations given the lack of attention that First Nations have received in this budget. It is clear that the frustration of our people is growing, and this budget does nothing to allay their concerns.
It is clear that the circumstances of First Nations peoples remain a black mark on Canada. It’s an enormous burden, not just on our people, but the whole country. We prefer to turn this situation around so that First Nations are more effective contributors to Canada’s prosperity. We need to be able create opportunities, not continue to miss out on them.
Nowhere is the fiscal imbalance more apparent than in the under-funding of First Nations health, child welfare, education, housing and infrastructure. No other Canadian group has had to endure a two-percent cap on funding that has now been in place for over a decade.
Our population continues to grow and the poverty gap continues to widen. Monday’s budget only contributes to the imbalance by providing $39 billion over seven years to the provinces, without any comparable attention to First Nations.
This government continues to ignore the devastating socio-economic conditions of First Nations. There's $22 billion to pay down the debt, yet nothing to address Canada's constitutional obligations to First Nations.
In November 2005, First Nations had a plan that was unanimously accepted by the Premiers and Aboriginal leaders. As an Opposition MP at the time, Minister Prentice said: "the fight against aboriginal poverty is the most pressing social issue that our country faces … and as Conservatives, we believe something has to be done."
However, in addition to rejecting First Nations in the budget on March 19th, on March 21st, the government voted against Private Member’s Bill C-292, which requires the government to honour the $5.1 billion Kelowna Accord. The Bill passed the House of Commons and is now on to the Senate. However, this government insists it has no obligation to honour funding requirements in Private Member’s Bills.
It should be clear that as part of these critical investments, First Nations of this country seek a commitment to structural change. The First Nations – Federal Crown Political Accord on the Recognition and Implementation of First Nation Governments (signed in May 2005) provides an exit strategy from the current policies and structures that restrict our communities and condemn our people to maintaining the status quo conditions of poverty.
Minister Prentice committed to the process established under the Accord at a meeting of BC First Nations last year. I call upon him to act to replace fundamentally flawed government processes and policies.
In the weeks and months to come we must re-focus our energies and coordinate our efforts so that our voices will be heard. I look forward to working with the National Executive and all First Nations organizations to carefully plan and maximize opportunities to strengthen our case and our conviction.
The latest INAC report on the provision of drinking water to First Nations on reserve makes lots of claims to be delivering clean water. 97 First Nations still are considered to have HIGH RISK drinking water systems.
Since the announcement of the Plan of Action for Safe Drinking Water in First Nations Communities on March 21, 2006, actions undertaken by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Health Canada, and Environment Canada, have achieved the following results:
Plan of Action for Drinking Water in First Nations Communities - Progress Report March 22, 2007
Click here for a PDF copy of the INAC report ...
Table of Contents
Obese children will die younger than their parents: report
March 27, 2007 - CBC News
About one-quarter of Canadians aged two to 17 are overweight or obese, and they are expected to live shorter lives than their parents, the Commons health committee warned Tuesday.
An all-party committee report titled Healthy Weight for Healthy Kids calls on the federal government to stop the trend toward increasing obesity levels among Canadian children by the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, and to decrease levels by at least 25 per cent by 2020.
The excess weight puts children at risk of a range of preventable health problems, including Type 2 diabetes, susceptibility to heart attack and stroke, joint problems and mental health issues.
"It has been said that obesity outranks both smoking and drinking now in its effects on health and health costs," said committee chair Rob Merrifield, a Conservative MP for the Alberta riding of Yellowhead.
"For the first time in recorded history, today's younger generation will live shorter lives than their parents. Yet parents, and this is, I believe, the most alarming statistic that we found, do not recognize the problem."
According to a survey by the Canadian Medical Association, nine per cent of parents identified their children as being overweight or obese.
Rates among aboriginal children are worse, with 55 per cent living on reserves being overweight or obese, compared with 41 per cent for First Nations children living off reserves, said the report.
Children on reserves are also snacking on processed, high-sugar foods, but statistics suggest obesity levels go down considerably if one meal a day is made of traditional First Nations food, Merrifield said.
The report calls on the federal government to immediately:
"We have to change the paradigm so that it's unfashionable to overeat and it's very fashionable to exercise more," Merrifield said.
It will probably take a generation to change the culture, but it is possible, said Conservative MP Steven Fletcher, who sits on the committee.
In response to the report, non-profit consumer group Centre for Science in the Public Interest renewed its calls to limit commercially motivated pressures on children to eat, drink and be inactive.
The Commons committee's report called for a review of the food and beverage industry's self-regulation of their advertising to children.
Report reveals staggering child obesity numbers
Updated Tue. Mar. 27 2007 - ctv.ca
The childhood obesity "epidemic" means Canadian kids will, for the first time in recorded history, live shorter than their parents, warns a new report.
The Commons health committee report released Tuesday concludes 26 per cent of Canadians between the ages of two and 17 are overweight or obese, an increase of 15 per cent from 1978.
The staggering numbers show that on reserves, 55 per cent of First Nations children in that age group are considered grossly overweight.
The report, titled "Healthy Weights for Healthy Kids," says obesity outranks smoking and drinking in its impact on health and costs related to health-care.
"We're killing our kids with kindness," warned Conservative MP Rob Merrifield, chairman of the Commons health committee which produced the report after nine months of consultations.
The all-party report says Canada has one of the world's highest childhood obesity rates, ranking fifth among 34 countries that are a part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The added weight is triggering higher rates of preventable life-threatening diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, while also causing joint problems and mental health issues, the committee says.
Children are consuming too many calories in fatty and processed foods and sugary drinks, and spending too much time in front of the TV and computer, MPs warn.
"The link between obesity and the increased consumption of sweetened drinks is particularly disturbing," the 60-page report says. "It has been estimated that sugary drinks may be responsible for as much as one pound per month weight gain in adolescents."
An even more disturbing figure was the fact that only nine per cent of parents recognized their children to be obese or overweight.
"This is the most alarming statistic we found, that they do not recognize the problem," Merrifield said.
The panel says the federal government must immediately ban trans-fats and launch a public awareness campaign to warn of the health care crisis.
The committee recommends changes take place at all levels, including at home, in schools, in the community and in advertising and media markets.
Other recommendations include:
The committee set 2010 as the target date for halting the rise of childhood obesity, the year Canada hosts the Winter Olympics.
"This is a year when all of Canada's attention will be focused on physical activity, the pride of Canada, our youth and healthy living," said Heart and Stroke Foundation CEO Sally Brown.
General obesity costs Canada about $1.6 billion a year in health-care costs. The panel said it costs the economy another $2.7 billion in lost productivity, disability insurance, reduced quality of life and mental health problems due to stigmatization and poor self-esteem.
With a report from CTV's Monica Matys and files from The Canadian Press