A surprisingly clear sign of progress from the First Nations summit

Ottawa will provide multi-year funding, but only to reserve communities that meet proper standards of governance

Few really expected any very specific progress to flow from today’s summit meeting between the Prime Minister and Aboriginal leaders, but an unexpectedly precise step forward on proper financing for reserves appears to have materialized.

The “Crown-First Nations Gathering Joint Statement” issued at the end of today’s sessions here in Ottawa includes an “Immediate Steps for Action” section. The very first item promises that “Canada and First Nations will work on a renewed relationship that is based on… movement toward a single, multi-year Government of Canada financial arrangement for First Nations with high-performing governance systems.”

The wording might sound bureaucratic, but the two underlying points are of critical importance. Ottawa will provide multi-year funding, but only to reserve communities that meet proper standards of governance.

At his closing news conference, Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan said the model for the new arrangements will be an existing process under which some 55 First Nations have taken on full control of their own land management—after satisfying the federal government that they had sufficient administrative capacity.

“We’ll go through a similar exercise with First Nations in terms of who has the capacity to enter into longer-term financial arrangements,” Duncan said.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo touted the move as an escape from the “completely arbitrary” one-year funding Ottawa now provides to band councils. But he said arriving at “long-term, sustainable and fair” funding formulas cannot be handled by Duncan’s department alone.

“This is going to require engagement with the Department of Finance and new fiscal mechanisms,” Atleo said.

This key development hasn’t emerged out of the blue. In a report issued just as she was retiring last June, outgoing auditor general Sheila Fraser drew critical attention to the fact that most federal funding to First Nations is provided on a year-by-year basis. This system leaves band councils unable to undertake long-term projects—such as the sort of sustained multi-year housing construction that Attawapiskat so badly needed.

“This situation creates a level of uncertainty for First Nations and makes long-term planning difficult,” Fraser wrote. “A legislative base including statutory funding could remove the uncertainty that results when funding for services depends on the availability of resources.”

It’s not clear the sort of legislation Fraser was suggesting is now in the cards. But the fundamental problem that she highlighted appears at the top of the priorities list, and with it a frank acknowledgement that this advance only makes sense for reserves with, as today’s statement puts its, “high-functioning governance systems.”

If this “immediate step for action” is indeed pursued, it could be a key improvement in reserve planning and an important incentive for better band management. Turns out the summit might not have been only about good feelings and better photo-ops after all.




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A surprisingly clear sign of progress from the First Nations summit

  1. Looks like it was worth it for PM “Chief Speaker” to stay the course……

  2. Even assuming appropriate standards are put in place, what will happen for bands with needs but who do not meet the new standards?

    • They fail

      • See this is the kind of calptrap I expect from the internet, but I’m worried our actual government isn’t much better.  History doesn’t look good, and I hope I can share Geddes optimism for the future but i’m fearful.

    • What will happen to these bands if they don’t have good governance and money continues to be poured into them?  They will continue to have “needs” because the money will be misspent.  I think the purpose of the change is to make it attractive for all bands to ensure that they have good governance to place…..surely that is what everyone wants to see.

      • Your question is interesting.  The sentences after it are somewhat unfounded.

        My question was not answered.  

    • Presumably they’ll continue with the status quo

    • Does good governance mean having a highly paid consultant/accountant forced onto their payroll as we’ve seen in the past? Will bands have to find the 300k first in order to receive funding?

  3. So if first nations govern themselves with proper standards, they will be funded until when? – What is the plan for the first nations to no longer require significant funding – or is that not acceptable to ask? And if the first nations will always require funding isn’t there something really wrong with that from a socio-economic point of view, that one cross section of the population will always support the other cross section? And please don’t give me a history guilt lesson, I’m talking about all that matters, which is right here, right now and moving forward. So what’s the plan to make first nations self sufficient and require less funding – more education, industry – what? Or are all of these land settlements, reserves and remote settlements basically not economically viable (and never have the intention of being)?

    • We await the Harper roadmap…

      • The First Nations people know they can trust the leadership of PM Harper.
        I think you see it as well.

        • Mmm they just threatened an uprising.

          • It wasn’t “they”, it was one Chief.

          • The latest chief to do so.

        • I hope you are paid well for the abject offence to reasoned discourse you spew.

          • My only payment is the enjoyment I receive knowing that my effort may help to lift you and your predictable cohorts from the depths of negativity and despair.

          • The Calgary Accord?

        • That remark just shows that the day’s dialogue was lost on you.

        • Trust Harper???  Are you for real????  Another scheme to get all FNs to sign onto his so-called LMA – if you don’t – you don’t get no funding.  Same ole story, always backed into a corner with very little options/choices!

    • A good first step would be to give first nations the same property rights and ability to engage in trade with the wider economy that the rest of us enjoy.

      As it stands, they are completely at the mercy of their local Chief Jong-un and the Worker’s Party of Indian Affairs.

  4. This comment was deleted.

    • Not really

      “The very first item promises that “Canada and First Nations will work on
      a renewed relationship that is based on… movement toward a single,
      multi-year Government of Canada financial arrangement for First Nations
      with high-performing governance systems.”

      I recognise the terms “work on” and “movement toward” as classic cosmetics in policy enaction. It’s worded in such a way that those who want action can say they’re getting it and those who don’t want to do anything can pass off any work as “work and movement.”

      When it happens I’ll believe it but as it will not be popular with the base I don’t think it will happen.

  5. what’s the basis of the so-called “funding” formula.  is it per acre occupied, per stompage fee, per ounce extracted, the Treaties are based on land sharing, whats the sharing part?

  6. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/paul-martin-to-harper-stop-studying-age-old-native-problems-go-to-a-reserve/article2314095/

    This guy isn’t happy.

    “ First Nations with high-performing governance systems.”

    What does this actually mean?

    ” Ottawa will provide multi-year funding, but only to reserve communities that meet proper standards of governance.
    At his closing news conference, Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan said the model for the new arrangements will be an existing process under which some 55 First Nations have taken on full control of their own land management—after satisfying the federal government that they had sufficient administrative capacity.”

    Are you so sure that this definition is as clear and lacking in attached idealogical strings as it appears to be?

    Any chance you might do something in depth on this existing process JG? It sounds promising but i remain skeptical of this govts real endgame for FN’s ” proper” governance and even more so so why FNs that meet those standards can’t immediately opt out of the indian act.

  7. Yeah, the multii-year financing initiative may be welcome, but it’s not a huge victory for First Nations. It moreso fits into the incremental approach adopted by Harper.

  8. Too bad some provinces (i.e. Ontario and Quebec) don’t have high performing governance systems. 

  9. Will the chief of Attawapiskat meet these standards…I don’t think so. So then what will happen?
    Isee she was enjoying the conference whil her people were freezing….did she really need to be there?

  10. Here’s the usual leftie media shtick from people like Geddes who say lines like the above:

    Media person: “Few really expected any very specific progress to flow from today’s summit meeting”

    Then, days later…

    Same media person: “Surprise!  Much progress made! Turns out the summit might not have been only about good feelings and better photo-ops after all.”

    This has been repeated ad nauseum.  Geddes, you and your ilk should get off your crybaby routine longing for Liberal government and get used to the reality that this government is not a Liberal government.  They don’t do things the Liberal way, and they never will, but they will get more done, and they will get real results.

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