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Budget a disappointment, First Nations say

Ontario's First Nations say the federal budget announced today is a disappointment in the area of housing.
Ontario's First Nations say the federal budget announced today is a disappointment in the area of housing.

Further information is included in the following news release issued this evening by the Union of Ontario Indians:

THUNDER BAY (February 23, 2005)

In responding to the 2005 Federal Budget,
the Union of Ontario Indians is considerably disappointed with the government's response to the "First Nations Housing Deficit," a phrase coined by Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief John Beaucage.

"With this budget, the Government of Canada has done little to improve housing conditions on First Nations. This announcement isn't even close to what is needed to improve the squalid, substandard and overcrowded
conditions in our communities," said Grand Council Chief John Beaucage, elected leader of 42 First Nations across Ontario.

"Although I'm disappointed with the government investment in First Nations housing, I am encouraged that the Prime Minister and First Ministers will continue to meet with us, through the Canada-Aboriginal Peoples Roundtable,"
said Beaucage.

"We expect further funding announcements with regard to
housing at the First Ministers meeting in the Fall of 2005."

Grand Council Chief John Beaucage sits on the Housing Sector of the Canada-Aboriginal Peoples Roundtable. He will be meeting directly with Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Andy Scott on March 11.

The federal government has announced an allocation of $295 million over five years, or 6,400 new housing units to address new housing construction and renovations.

Grand Council Chief Beaucage is asking for an immediate investment of $1 billion per year to address the First Nations "housing deficit."

The Union of Ontario Indians is calling upon the Government of Canada to utilize the so-called "contingency reserve" (of which $3 billion of the annual budget surplus is being set aside each year), to establish a First
Nation Housing Innovation Fund, and a First Nations Housing Emergency Fund to address the substantial housing deficit that is of significant concern in First Nations.

According to the Grand Council Chief Beaucage: "We have to address the housing deficit within First Nation communities.

There is an immediate need for over 85,000 new housing units across Canada.

About half of that is required right here in Ontario with significant investment needed within Anishinabek Nation territory."

More conservative estimates from government sources state the immediate need is between 8,800 and 35,000 new housing units.

The housing deficit refers to the immediate need for new housing, to address social housing needs, the need for retrofit of aging and substandard housing and to address problems such as health and safety concerns such as mold.

Although there was a definite sense of disappointment from First Nations over housing and residential school programs, the Union of Ontario Indians expressed optimism over the government's commitment towards youth and family
social programs and their attempt to meet the needs and addressing the priorities of First Nations communities.

The government announced $750 million over five years towards First Nations early learning and childcare; special education; a national system of early learning and childcare, and strengthening child and family services

The Union of Ontario Indians recognizes this as an investment in the priorities established by the First Nation communities.

"I am pleased to see this new investment towards our First Nations children, youth and families," said Grand Council Chief Beaucage.

"This investment is a positive first step towards our goal of equitable social programs that meets the needs of our citizens. We encourage the federal and provincial
governments to continue to work with us on improving our social programs."

The Union of Ontario Indians is calling upon the government to meet with First Nations to come up with a cooperative way of implementing an equitable establishment of child care for First Nations, both on-reserve and in urban centres.

To address residential school survivors, the government extended the mandate of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF) by two years.

Grand Council Chief Beaucage doesn't feel this extension will lead to any significant reconciliation or healing for traumatized and aging residential school survivors.

The government announced $40 million over two years to support community-based healing projects. The Aboriginal Healing Foundation was established in 1998 as a response to the Statement of Reconciliation, where the government officially apologized for the residential school era.

"This is only a drop in the bucket of what is needed to address community healing, cultural revitalization, and compensation to those who suffered physical, sexual and emotional abuse."

The Anishinabek Nation incorporated the Union of Ontario Indians as its secretariat in 1949. The UOI is a political advocate for 42 member First Nations across Ontario. The Union of Ontario Indians is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.