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Indigenous funding a massive failure 

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On his last day in Parliament as prime minister in 1984, Pierre Trudeau said: “I do not think the purpose of a government is to right the past. It cannot rewrite history. It is our purpose to be just in our time.”

It’s clear almost four decades later that we have not been just in our time to Indigenous Canadians.

We know because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will spend $24.5 billion on Indigenous programs this year — 87% higher than historical norms — and we still can’t provide clean water to every Indigenous reserve in Canada.

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How is that possible?

More broadly, how is it possible that billions upon billions of tax dollars spent on Indigenous issues by federal, provincial and territorial governments, over many decades, have not improved the lives of Indigenous Canadians?

Not only on reserves, but for the majority — about 56% — who now live in cities.

How is it possible rates of unemployment, poverty, incarceration, sickness and drug and alcohol addiction remain stubbornly high, compared to other Canadians?

The late federal auditor general Michael Ferguson called it an “incomprehensible failure” in a series of reports on federal Indigenous spending in 2016 and 2018.

Some people argue mismanagement and corruption by some Indigenous leaders is responsible.

That’s true to some extent.

It’s why we opposed Trudeau’s decision to scrap the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, passed by the previous Stephen Harper government, intended to provide more openness and transparency on these issues.

But Ferguson was clear in his review in identifying what he found to be the largest source of the problem.

It wasn’t First Nations leaders.

It was that the federal government’s Indigenous affairs bureaucracy doesn’t monitor the results of its spending to see if the money is accomplishing what it’s supposed to accomplish.

Instead, programs “are managed to accommodate the people running them rather than the people receiving the services … the focus is on measuring what civil servants are doing rather than how well Canadians are being served.”

The reality is the Trudeau government, like all federal governments before it, will never be “just in our time” to Canada’s Indigenous people until they focus not on the size of the cheques they’re doling out, but on whether the programs they fund are working.

—Postmedia Network

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