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News Archive - April 2012


Treaty No. 7 Chiefs Respond to Budget 2012

Budget graphic for press release re: Budget 2012
News Release

Calgary, Alberta March 29, 2012 – As Ottawa moved to scale back federal spending by $5.2 billion a year; many First Nations expected the announced austerity budget to be loaded with further cuts to already severely underfunded programs and services. However, upon initial review of the March 29 budget, indications suggest Aboriginal people will benefit from the measures announced in Budget 2012 that commits the Government to introduce legislation and explore new funding mechanisms for First Nations elementary and secondary education and invests $275 million over three years to support First Nation education.

“In the time that we’ve had to analyze Harper’s budget, we are pleased with the important investments and commitments for First Nations education and infrastructure, but we remain cautious and steadfast in advancing the implementation of Treaties, resolving land claims, strengthening First Nations governance and better financial arrangements to ensure stable, sustainable funding,” says Blood Tribe Chief Charles Weaselhead.

“We must continue to follow up on the positive outcomes of this budget and the Crown-First Nation Gathering, and continue to be active on reconciliation - consistent with a rights-based agenda and the need for investment across many areas. Not just reforming the status quo, but truly engaging transformational change in public policy and the way governments do business with us.”

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development has reported that most cuts to its portfolio were internalized, with plans to align other federal departments in order to reduce redundancies. “Savings will be achieved through restructuring, operational efficiencies and changes to business processes, in order to improve service delivery to Aboriginal and Northern communities,” according to its website.

The Economic Action Plan 2012 tabled by Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty, invests $707.7 million over three years for Aboriginal peoples and Northern communities “allowing them to participate more fully in Canada’s economy and benefit from its growth.” Budget 2012 also provides funding of $691.8 million over the next three years for Aboriginal peoples and their communities, including strategic investments in: First Nation education on reserve as well as infrastructure, training that will “improve prospects for employment, improvements” to First Nation water infrastructure and the Urban Aboriginal Strategy.

“Plans to improve education and address economic participation for First Nations are positive steps for our young people, who are emerging as a huge demographic,” says Weaselhead. “However, we are still concerned about the federal government plan to unveil new rules that it says will cut the time needed for environmental assessments of major energy and industrial projects. With more and more exploration, development and production across Western Canada, some First Nations’ territories are affected. Therefore the duty to consult and respect our treaty and Aboriginal rights must be reconciled in order to balance social, economic and environmental needs,” says Weaselhead.
As part of its Economic Action Plan, Ottawa announced its commitment address family violence on-reserve and to improve employment training and incentives to the on-reserve Income Assistance Program. In its 2012 plan, the Government commits to “make progress” by better aligning its on-reserve Income Assistance Program with provincial systems. Chief Weaselhead says he hopes this commitment will mean enforcement of provincial standards on reserve so that many of his people won’t have to leave home just so they can access handicap and mental health programs and other services enjoyed by all other Albertans.

“While many First Nations support commitments to introduce initiatives like enhancing economic potential on First Nations lands and improve water quality in First Nations communities, we must be diligent on the treaty-based agenda and building stronger relationships and reconciliation of critical jurisdictional issues with government. I am encouraged by Canada’s commitment to work with us, especially on proposed legislation because that is another critical concern - such as laws to establish equity, structures and standards to education systems on-reserve; to allow private property ownership on-reserve; improving safe drinking water regulations; and other legislation that must not derogate or abrogate from our treaty and inherent rights.”

“I am all for equity and safe drinking water legislation, but any new laws – such as the push for privatization of reserve lands and conversion of Aboriginal title into fee simple on a small percentage of traditional territories – has to include meaningful consultation to ensure transformational change while respecting and reconciling treaty and inherent rights.”


For more information, please contact: Brent Scout, Treaty 7 Grand Chiefs Liaison:
Treaty 7 First Nations Chiefs Association @ 403.710.9432 or bscout@treaty7.org

Posted on 20 Apr 2012

T7 First Nations to Host Housing Symposium to Discuss On-Reserve Housing Crisis

Housing Symposium - 2012 - poster
Press Release

Calgary, Alberta – Treaty No. 7 First Nations will meet on May 23-24 to inform and talk about housing issues; and to create an opportunity of exchange and discussion. “Sharing Our Knowledge with the Next Generation” will highlight the challenges First Nations face to advance First Nations controlled and sustainable housing toward addressing the housing crisis in Treaty 7 communities.

The current crisis in First Nations housing has drawn attention in the headlines recently, but many Indian reserves have been struggling with housing shortages and substandard living conditions for years. A recent federal evaluation of First Nations housing concluded that the housing shortage on reserves is severe and only getting worse. According to a 2011 report, 20,000 to 35,000 new units would need to be built to meet current demand (the Assembly of First Nations puts the figure closer to 85,000).

Housing on reserves falls short by almost any measure and especially when compared with housing off reserve: 41.5 per cent of homes on reserves need major repairs, compared with seven per cent in non-aboriginal households outside reserves. Rates of overcrowding are six times greater on reserve than off. In many communities, it's not uncommon to have three generations living under one roof – not by choice but by necessity.

Blood Tribe Chief Charles Weaselhead says it is critical to connect with First Nations, government and with health professionals to ensure participation and collaboration for the purpose of closing the gap in living conditions between FNs and the rest of Canada. “This can be achieved through strategizing and promoting understanding of First Nation ways of life and plans that take into account a holistic process to health and wellness, including some of the factors that affect the health of our peoples and communities, such as the crises in housing and other socio-economic factors, says Weaselhead.

“As we all know, when a comparison between our communities and non-First Nations’ is made, First Nations have an extreme disadvantage. Living conditions or quality of life ranks 63rd in the world, amongst Third World conditions...Canada dropped from first to eighth as the best country in the world to live, primarily due to housing and health conditions in our communities. Numerous studies over the years have listed the serious problems with housing and infrastructure for First Nations: shortages in housing units leading to severe overcrowding; lack of plumbing; clean drinking water; no electricity; poor insulation; toxic mould; substandard construction; and, a huge accumulation of units in need of major repair.”

The two-day Housing Symposium will focus on solutions, recommendations and input from community leaders and citizens, housing professionals, department managers, government and Elders. Arnold Jerry is the Symposium organizer and Director of Housing for the Treaty 7 Management Corporation (T7MC). He says the symposium will also focus on areas such as occupational health and safety, matrimonial law, residency bylaws, disaster planning and the impact of First Nations gangs.
“There are many unanswered questions that we need to deal with and some of the more serious issues could easily get out of hand if they aren’t dealt with quickly. Waiting around for government or others to take action isn’t the answer; we need to come together and we need to work collectively; many, if not most of our concerns (in Treaty 7 and nationally) are the same. I am confident that the delegates will come away with a better understanding of the issues and what must be done to ensure our longevity,” says Mr. Jerry.

The Symposium is open to everyone in Treaties 6, 7 and 8 at no charge. Jerry said he’s interested in hearing what others have to say and wants to get as much input as possible. “Community leaders, members, planners, housing administrators, contractors and builders will garner significant benefits, that’s because much of the discussion will focus on making improvements to existing practices, especially as those practices relate to construction techniques, housing maintenance, occupational health and safety and mold remediation, for example,” says the T7MC Housing Director. “We have to look at educating the community about how they can live more comfortably, how they can participate and how each of us can play a role in creating positive change.”

Insurance issues, occupational health and safety and federal responsibilities are other areas that will be explored at the Symposium. “Disaster services are another area that will be addressed at the symposium. Our communities are close to oil and gas production and railway tracks that are a proven source of concern. An oil spill, just like a major fire or flood, creates havoc on the land; if something like a container of ammonia was to spill it could potentially wipe out most of the community. Who is responsible for ensuring that disaster measures are in place? Aboriginal peoples primarily live in rural regions, far away from city fire trucks and emergency crews; we need to ensure that if an emergency or disaster situation should arise, we are able to respond in kind.”

The Aboriginal Housing Symposium at the Coast Plaza Hotel and Conference Centre in Calgary, AB. will also feature a trade show on-site and a golf tournament at the Heather Glen Golf Course. The event is open to all First Nations in Treaties 6, 7 and 8 at no charge.

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For more information on First Nations Housing please contact:

Arnold Jerry at: arnoldj@treaty7.org

For more information on the symposium, including full details and how to register, check out our Events section www.treaty7.org/EventsCalendar.aspx or contact:

Crystal Doore at (403) 539-0350 or t7mcadmin@treaty7.org

Posted on 20 Apr 2012