Workfare program for FN youth created
OTTAWA—A major budget initiative to make social assistance for First Nations’ youth contingent on entering into a training program likely is to get a rough ride on reserves, the NDP said.
Making good on a promise from last year, this year’s budget puts $241 million over five years into training programs for young people collecting income assistance.
It drew immediate and sharp criticism from Opposition members who said Prime Minister Stephen Harper is imposing unrealistic arrangements on First Nations without any discussion.
“At a time when First Nations are holding out a hand for reconciliation, he’s giving them the back of his hand,” charged NDP leader Tom Mulcair.
“It’s insulting, it’s paternalistic, and they’re the only ones who are getting this kind of proposal.”
Shawn Atleo, the Assembly of First Nations national chief, said the budget is a lot of talk but no action in the form of financial resources.
“Budget 2013 makes reference to First Nations in almost every section, which suggests that the unprecedented attention and engagement of our peoples is beginning to be heard,” Atleo said in a release.
“But the investment just isn’t there,” he stressed.
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs was equally skeptical.
“This status quo budget ensures the rich keep getting rich with tax credits and incentives that generally do not help First Nations’ individuals or communities,” said Grand Chief Derek Nepinak.
“A status quo budget for First Nations’ people means a continuation of escalating poverty and a continuing failure to meet the basic needs of families in the communities,” he added.
“Announcements on re-allocated funding for skills and trade development, tied to compulsory program changes, is nothing short of coercion and racialized policy implementation.”
NDP critic Jean Crowder predicted many bands will balk at the budget telling them to set up new programs that promise a quick fix—and removing assistance unless they co-operate.