There was a substantial First Nations focus in Tuesday’s federal budget, with more than $8.4 billion being allocated to aiding aboriginal communities over five years.
The funds are a good step towards addressing some of the major issues First Nation communities face, according to Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson.
“Overall the federal budget, I think, is a good initial first step towards working with First Nations people,” she said.
Around $2.6 billion will go towards on reserve education funding, which Cook-Searson said her community has spent several years fighting to get.
“That’s been something we have been lobbying for, for many years … the equality of funding, whether you live on or off reserve,” she said.
“When you have education funding that’s equal to the school across the street, the people that are going to benefit the most are going be the students and the children in our communities.”
According to Cook-Searson the budget’s nod to First Nations communities showed the government had been listening to the needs of First Nation’s people.
“In the last federal election, in northern Saskatchewan alone, there was over 8,000 more voters that came out to vote, saying ‘this is what we want’ and I think the federal government has taken a good step towards working with First Nations people.”
Calling the budget “welcomed”, Cook-Searson said her community is ready to work with the federal government, and hopes the funds will “hit” her community.
“It’s good for the federal government to do this and it would be good for the province to do the same.”
The budget also allocated approximately $33 million over five years to help increase the number of women’s shelters in First Nations communities.
Shirley Henderson, chairperson of the Women’s Commission for the Prince Albert Grand Council, said they had applied for additional funding for many years, but to no avail.
“I’m hoping now we will take our proposal out and resubmit and hopefully we will get some funding for a women’s shelter for northern Saskatchewan.”