March 22, 2012
The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) is disappointed that the provincial budget did little to address critical issues facing First Nations in the province.
FSIN Interim Chief Morley Watson said that despite Finance Minister Ken Krawetz's comment, 'People are going to understand that there are going to still be many great things that are going to occur in this budget', there is very little evidence that First Nations people are being considered in a meaningful way.
"While the Government's theme for this budget is keeping the 'Saskatchewan Advantage' the government could certainly involve First Nations directly in the 'Saskatchewan Advantage' but, has chosen not to," said Interim Chief Watson.
First Nations comprise 16 percent of the Saskatchewan population but represent the largest gap in employment rates between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal adults in all of Canada. The FSIN Chiefs, Tribal Councils and First Nations have been lobbying the Saskatchewan Government specifically for training dollars so that the gap can be reduced significantly and thus increase educational opportunities so young First Nations people can compete for the numerous jobs available in Saskatchewan. Interim Chief Watson said, "I am appalled that the province has remained silent on this issue in this budget."
"Now is the time for Premier Wall and his cabinet to take action and provide funding so that First Nations people can become more active participants in this booming economy. Through more participation in the economy, First Nations people become a human resource asset for the province and gain greater success as well as improve their lives. The dependence on social assistance would be significantly reduced and the entire province would experience a positive change.
Interim Chief Watson noted today's budget was the 100th delivered in the province with spending increasing to some $11.29 billion. "I had hoped that after 100 years of budgets we would specifically see some measures to address the economic and social discrepancies between First Nation's people and the rest of Saskatchewan."
Other areas that the FSIN is concerned about include funding for First Nations education where the FSIN wants comparable education funding for First Nations and Non-First Nations students. "There is nothing in the budget specifically to address the gap in funding and this is of big concern to the FSIN and First Nation leaders in this province," noted Interim Chief Watson.
Furthermore, what the province has not identified in the budget is the issue of the availability of doctors and First Nations people are very concerned about the dwindling number of doctors in rural and northern Saskatchewan.
Interim Chief Watson stated, "The time has come for the Government of Saskatchewan and the Government of Canada to work together with First Nations to develop innovative ways of addressing issues in this province so that the issues facing First Nations today are not here in the budget delivered in another 100 years."
Interim Chief Watson noted that the FSIN will be performing a complete analysis of the provincial budget during the next few days and will have more comments after the analysis is completed.
The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan. The Federation is committed to honouring the spirit and intent of Treaty, as well as the promotion, protection and implementation of the Treaty promises that were made more than a century ago.