Friday, March 5, 2010

First Nations in the throne speech and budget

So I have been waiting a few days to let it all settle in. Hearing in the throne speech that Harper is going to sign on to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples convinced me that I'd been hit on the head and knocked into some other-worldly dream. It's not because I actually set much stock by the Declaration, (for short UNDRIP.) It's non-binding. Just an aspirational document. However, seeing the Harper government sign on is just weird. Over the past years they have argued:

It contains provisions that are inconsistent with the Canadian charter," Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Jim Prentice said of the deal. "It contains provisions that are inconsistent with the Constitution Act of 1982. It's quite inconsistent with land-claims policies under which Canada negotiates claims."

"I am sorry we can't sign on," Strahl told CBC News on Thursday from Ottawa. "It's not balanced, in our view, and inconsistent with the Charter."

"We shouldn't vote for things on the basis of political correctness; we should actually vote on the basis of what's in the document," Harper said.

And yet I suspect that political correctness is exaclty what made them sign on. After all the document hasn't changed. On the other hand there has been a steady stream of embarrassing media. Signing on costs nothing, (Not politically either. So far, the blogging Tories seem to have not even noticed). Signing it looks good, and stems criticism. On to the budget. The fate of the funding for post-secondary students is unknown. There is money for K-12 education, but only to fund a tripartite agreement in Alberta. There is a little for water, which considering that as of January 31, 2010, there were 105 First Nations communities across Canada under a Drinking Water Advisory. The big surprises were the $10 million over two years to address the issue of hundreds of missing and murdered native women in Canada and the 200 million over two years for mental health supports and to facilitate payment to residential school survivors. On the last item the question is will the funding go to save the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, which has by all accounts done a good job getting programs and services on the ground, or will it get thrown into Health Canada? What is the split between health supports which will be increasingly important as the Truth and Reconciliation commission rolls out, and how much will get eaten by the monster of a bureaucracy at Indian Residential Schools Canada to roll out CEP compensation? (or in many cases, to NOT roll it out as they seem to be denying or partly denying a number of claims)


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