Harper Government's Hypocrisy Drives Funding Cuts

News Release. October 11, 2012

(Coast Salish Territory / Vancouver. October 11, 2012) The funding cuts of the Harper Government’s Budget Implementation Act not only significantly weakened and dangerously compromises vital legislation, such as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Fisheries Act, it has allowed the Harper Government to renew a nation-wide attack on the collective and inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“The gutting of legislation that safeguard the environment was bad enough but now with funding cuts to tribal councils, regional and national aboriginal representative organizations, it is evident the support for band governments has been challenged and the voices of First Nations’ political advocacy are being told to shut up,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “Tribal Councils are being dictated to act solely as program providers and if they act accordingly they will qualify for incentive funding. Representative organizations are being advised to provide insight into what the priorities of Aboriginal communities are and if they act accordingly a central committee may review a submitted proposal and make recommendations based on ‘our shared priorities.’”

The UBCIC Chiefs-in-Assembly met this past September and urgently discussed the funding cuts, policy shifts and gutting of federal legislation by the Harper Government. Resolution 2012-49, Opposition to AANDC Funding Cuts to Aboriginal Representative Organizations and Tribal Councils, was passed by consensus. The resolution states the Chiefs-in-Assembly “object to and condemn the drastic funding cuts” and repudiates the hypocrisy in the statement that “the Government of Canada is taking concrete steps to create the conditions for healthier, more self-sufficient Aboriginal communities.’”

Grand Chief Phillip stated “The cumulative effect of these cuts and policy changes is that it will not create self-sufficient communities, it will greatly undermine the inherent right to self-government. Chiefs and Councils will have to meet the dire needs of their growing communities with support program funding which have miserably failed to maintain pace with changing governance, management and accountability costs particularly in relation to modern information technology, liability insurance, legal services, human resource management, salary cost increases and the exponential costs of auditing as demanded by the Harper Government.”

The UBCIC believes the Harper Government will soon face litigation due to the lack of meaningful consultation on these policy changes and their infringement to the inherent right of self-government.  Litigation may result due to the greatly reduced capacity of First Nation governance support programs, especially when Tribal Councils and/or Band Councils are unable to meet program responsibilities due to out-dated funding formulas and imposed funding caps on programs. The likelihood of litigation will greatly increase due to the added burden on Councils of on-reserve compliance with the Canadian Human Rights Act, new requirements to implement matrimonial property rights and implementation of new standards for water, sewer and other community utilities. All of which will be compounded by the increased membership enrollment as a result of the McIvor court decision.

Grand Chief Phillip concluded “The fundamental problem is the Harper Government's hypocritical and discriminatory attack on our collective Indigenous democratic and human rights.  This week, Prime Minister Harper is espousing the need to respect human rights in Central Africa and yet his government repeatedly violates them when addressing our inherent right to self-government, our Aboriginal Title, our Aboriginal Rights and our Treaty Rights. The truth is our rights are human rights, as affirmed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Harper Government’s unending refusal to affirm and address our rights as human rights represents racial discrimination.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, (604) 684-0231

UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.