On November 30th, 2020 the Canadian government released its Fall Economic Statement. The statement reflects various components of economic wellbeing, including issues relevant to First Nations in BC. The Fall Economic Statement includes supports for various components of Canadian society that affect the economy, including justice, childcare, infrastructure and more.
“I’m very pleased to see that the federal government has including provisions for the opioid crisis, homelessness and Indigenous infrastructure,” stated Regional Chief Terry Teegee. Teegee continued, “Increased funding for universal broadband will advance the opportunity for First Nations to access online markets and tele-health, while childcare supports will empower Indigenous women and support cultural continuity. Heightened funding for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit People is a huge step towards reducing violence against our women, girls and gender diverse people. The Fall Economic Statement still leaves much to be desired on the part of Indigenous business development; however, this is a good start as we look towards a more equitable economy in Canada. I invite and implore Canada to engage with First Nations for a truly inclusive recovery strategy that includes inherent rights and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
The Fall Economic Statement does not include significant funding for First Nations economic development, despite being the largest untapped labour force in the country, the fastest growing population and the population with the highest levels of poverty. Despite this, the commitments to various issues that affect First Nations in the country demonstrates the possibility for more meaningful engagement with First Nations with the end goal of economic reconciliation. An allocation for First Nations economic development would be a universally beneficial investment for the country and First Nations expect to see further engagement with the federal government to this end.
BCAFN will continue to advocate for the heightened economic needs of First Nations in BC during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week the BCAFN released a report titled: Centering First Nations Concepts of Wellbeing – Toward a GDP-Alternative Index in BC. It forms part of a broader First Nations economic development strategy being led by the BCAFN, which includes advocating for industry and government to take advantage of the break in the status-quo to garner mutually beneficial partnerships with First Nations and to expedite economic reconciliation in the province and the country.