The provincial government tabled its 2021 Budget on April 20th, under the title, “A Stronger BC, For Everyone,” with key investments addressing the immediate and long-term impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Some historic investments are planned, including a new Strategic Investment Fund, InBC, $500 million in funding towards mental health and addictions services, targeted investments to address the ongoing opioid crisis, and $45 million to respond to the recommendations of the In Plain Sight report on systemic anti-Indigenous racism in the healthcare system.
While Budget 2021 rightly focuses primarily on pandemic response and recovery, it unfortunately lacks significant, new First Nations financial commitments, including funding geared towards the implementation of the MMIWG Action Plan and Calls for Justice; overall advancement in the Indigenous justice sector; cannabis strategy and legalization; wild salmon conservation and aquaculture; emergency management and reform of the Emergency Program Act (EPA); and forestry reform, including old growth management.
Glaring omissions in the new provincial budget, including how monies will be spent on the BC Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act implementation, are cause for concern for First Nations in BC. Lack of a mention of the MMIWG2S crisis, despite increasing domestic violence rates amidst COVID-19, is especially worrying. The Province must make these priorities. -Regional Chief Terry Teegee
We do acknowledge and appreciate the Budget’s significant health-related investments, particularly those that address the opioid crisis, mental health supports, and implementing the In Plain Sight report. However, First Nations reinforce the importance of the need to include the significant investments necessary to ensure fulsome and timely implementation of Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples Act across government. We hope the Province will still focus on its work with First Nations on the other identified important priority areas. -Robert Phillips, FNS Political Executive
We welcome investments into COVID-related support and recovery. However, beyond that, Budget 2021 includes high-level investments that are targeted toward Indigenous peoples with no detail provided to understand how these monies will be divided up. For example, how much funding will be spent on the costly and critical work of alignment of laws with the UN Declaration, as directed in the Declaration Act, of which there remains no concrete process that we are aware of? Is BC making any investment in a provincial action plan to implement the Calls for Justice? We are disappointed there is no mention of investment in sustainable old growth management that respects First Nations Title and Rights - we had thought based on the fall 2020 campaign messaging that this was a priority for the NDP government. -Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of UBCIC