Four First nation leaders protest cuts

Julie Bertrand, Alberni Valley Times

Four important B.C. aboriginal leaders joined forces yesterday to speak against the federal government’s announced funding cuts to First Nations organizations.

Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs president Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, British Columbia Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Rabould, First Nations Summit Task Group member Dan Smith and Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council president Cliff Atleo held a press conference to express their disappointment and anger with Ottawa.

In September, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister John Duncan announced that the federal government would change the funding model for Aboriginal Representative Organizations and Tribal Councils across the country.

Under the new funding model, which is scheduled to start on April 1, 2014, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council would lose 60% of its yearly budget, while the Union of B.C Indian Chiefs, the First Nation Summit Society, the B.C. Assembly of First Nations and the MĂ©tis Nation of British Columbia will all get a 10% budget cut.

“If the funding cuts go ahead, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council will have to cut at least 25 out of our 144 staff members,” Atleo said.

He added that Nuu-chah-nulth employees manage fisheries, residential school survivors programs, child-care programs, health services and financial support services for 10,000 members who live on reserves and in communities throughout Vancouver Island.

The four leaders denounced the fact that the federal government announced the funding cuts without discussing them first with First Nations, especially after Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with chiefs at the Crown-First Nations Gathering in January 2012 to build a relationship with First Nations….

All leaders called for the cuts to be cancelled immediately.