OPEN LETTER: UBCIC opposition to AANDC Funding Cuts

November 26, 2012

November 23, 2012

Honourable John Duncan, Minister
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada
10 Wellington Street
Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0H4
Via facsimile: (819) 953-4941

OPEN LETTER: UBCIC opposition to AANDC Funding Cuts

Dear Minister Duncan:

We strongly object to and condemn the drastic funding cuts announced by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) for Aboriginal Representative Organizations (AROs) and Tribal Councils, on September 4, 2012.

We are extremely disappointed that, despite the loud opposition of First Nations across the country to program changes imposed unilaterally by the government, that AANDC has again chosen to participate in the Harper government's nation-wide attack on the collective and inherent rights of Indigenous peoples, by making extreme funding cuts to AROs and Tribal Councils, for which there has not been consultation or appropriate analysis.

The Crown has a duty to consult, and where appropriate, accommodate when the Crown contemplates conduct that may adversely impact potential or established constitutionally protected Aboriginal or Treaty rights. This duty is grounded in court decisions including the Haida and Taku River decisions in 2004 and the Mikisew Cree decision in 2005, and arises from the Honour of the Crown and the Crown's relationship with Aboriginal peoples. The Crown cannot simply avoid this duty and impose funding changes that will change First Nations governance.

Further, we draw your attention to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada endorsed in 2010, and which sets out in Article 19 that " States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them." We fully expect Canada to uphold the serious commitments it has made through endorsing this important international instrument, and remind you that Canada has not obtained the free, prior and informed consent of First Nations to impose drastic funding cuts to AROs and Tribal Councils.

It is our understanding that effective April 1, 2014, funding to all National AROs will be reduced by 10% from their 2012-2013 core level and funding to all Regional AROs will be reduced by 10% or have a ceiling up to $500,000 applied to their core funding. It is also our understanding that effective April 1, 2014, the national Tribal Council Funding program will be reduced from approximately $47 million per year to $29.85 million per year and introduce a completely new funding formula to accommodate this reduction.

The funding cuts to AROs and Tribal Councils will undermine their ability to serve First Nations communities and citizens, and are essentially the federal government downloading its own costs on to communities. Funding cuts will lead to reduced communications, reduced negotiating strength, reduced efficiencies, and higher service costs. We are concerned that for Tribal Councils, even in instances where their funding is not dramatically reduced, the new funding formula signals a change in mandate for Tribal Councils that AANDC has not acknowledged or discussed with Tribal Councils. The proposed tiered funding formula and funding ceiling will create uncertainty and penalize Tribal Councils that serve larger constituencies. Further, Tribal Councils that provide critical other services and levels of support to their citizens that are not specifically funded by AANDC, will be directly impacted.

We wish to advise you that we are actively working with like-minded organizations in a coordinated response to these funding cuts. We are also calling on opposition members of Parliament to make these funding cuts an issue in Parliament and in the appropriate Parliamentary committees.

In closing, we strongly repudiate the hypocrisy in your statement that "the Government of Canada is taking concrete steps to create the conditions for healthier, more self-sufficient Aboriginal communities" by making drastic funding cuts to AROs and Tribal Councils. Your statement could not be farther from the truth- the funding cuts are actually creating the conditions to detrimentally impact First Nations strength and governance capacity. The cost of poverty- more unemployed, more need for services, more civil unrest- is far more expensive than supporting the development of First Nations' governance capacity. We urge you to realize that you must work in partnership with First Nations for the betterment and peace of all Canadians, and we call on you to retract the funding cuts to AROs and Tribal Councils.

On behalf of the UNION OF BC INDIAN CHIEFS

[Original signed]

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
President

Chief Robert Chamberlin
Vice-President

Chief Marilyn Baptiste
Secretary-Treasurer

CC: Opposition Members of Parliament
National Chief Shawn A-in-Chut Atleo, Assembly of First Nations
Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould, BCAFN
First Nations Summit Task Group
Tribal Councils in BC
UBCIC Chiefs Council

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