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Recover funds through industry donations, says Minister
John Duncan, federal minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, recently told Windspeaker that Aboriginal representative organizations, some of which are facing an 80 per cent cut to their federal core funding, can make up the shortfall by accessing dollars from corporate and private sector donations.
Speaking after an address to the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce last month, Duncan said, “We think there’s an opportunity for these organizations to look at other forms of revenue.”
But First Nations allying with industry in order to supplement radically depleted funding is neither feasible nor responsible, said Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. AMC will be losing 80 per cent of its funding through government cuts.
“On one hand we’re trying to preserve our ecosystems and our traditional territories, which are being compromised by the industrial machine, in oil and natural gas development, and at the same time now government expects us to go cap-in-hand to these same companies to keep our heads above water. To me, it’s a real travesty,” said Nepinak.
Engaging the private or corporate sector for funding would be a new step for national and regional Aboriginal representative organizations. Such a move, he said, would divert his attention from the other business of the AMC.
“Support from the private or corporate sector, we were never working toward that,” said Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy of the Chiefs of Ontario. “We were set up for political advocacy and technical support for First Nations and their struggle for self-determination.”
Beardy said AROs that mobilize their members to stand up for their rights, whether through demonstrations or the legal process, will not be the first choice when corporate or private donors are looking to invest.
Chief Cameron Alexis of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation in Alberta said the issue of picking up absent federal funding dollars from the corporate or private sector points to an even larger concern.
“It’s almost to a degree stating that the fiduciary responsibility of the government is going to be downloaded to industry,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.”
If the government is serious about First Nation organizations making up the shortfall with corporate dollars, that money needs to come from resource revenue sharing, said Alexis, not corporate donations.
Resource revenue sharing is a point national and regional First Nations organizations have been pushing for years. In October 2011, First Nations in Alberta and Saskatchewan organized rallies on the steps of their respective legislatures to push for a resource revenue share.
“Industry has the obligation to all Albertans and Canadians, especially First Nations, relative to revenue sharing. The revenue sharing has not been totally ironed out in respect to the treaty process, which is [in the] international realm of law,” said Alexis.
“There has to be wealth sharing of resources to ensure that First Nations people are able to address their essential needs,” said Beardy.
Nepinak said there is yet another avenue open to First Nations.
“A key piece in all this transition is to start talking once again about our economic sovereignty and how it’s been compromised over the last number of decades,” he said. “We need to take back our traditional economy.”
He points to tobacco as an example of a traditional trade that has been usurped by the present day government. He also notes gaming is another industry that has been appropriated by “settler society governments.”
“We’ve got to become much more aggressive and forthright in our plans in that regard,” said Nepinak.
Minister Duncan spoke with Windspeaker after a noon hour event at the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce which was sponsored by Enbridge Inc., the oil and gas company behind the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project; the pipeline has been the focal point of protests by numerous First Nations in Alberta and British Columbia.
Duncan said he wasn’t aware that Enbridge had sponsored the event.
“I appeared for the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce,” he said. “That’s the beginning and end of it.”
The chamber is backing the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project, recently submitting a letter of support to the Joint Review Panel that is assessing the project.
Read more on this topic: http://www.ammsa.com/publications/windspeaker/funding-cuts-correct-direction-according-duncan
Windspeaker editorial comment: http://www.ammsa.com/publications/windspeaker/are-you-ready-fight-editorial
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