Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today announced additional funding that will go to community groups that give Aboriginal people access to everything from groceries and mental health services to computers, so their children can follow the school work.
This is in addition to the $ 15 million announced in March for these groups.
“Aboriginal community organizations in our cities and off reserve do crucial work all year round, but these days, their services are in high demand due to the pandemic,” said Trudeau. “We need to make sure that they have the resources to adapt and develop their services so that they can fulfill their important mission. “
Community programs that could be funded include those that provide health and protection equipment, support for the elderly and transportation and educational materials for Aboriginal children and youth.
Funding is expected to start rolling out in the coming weeks.
Watch | Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces funding for off-reserve Aboriginal groups
The additional funding comes as critics accuse the Trudeau government of largely ignoring the plight of thousands of Aboriginal people living off reserve and in urban centers.
Many of them were already among the most vulnerable people in Canada before the mid-March pandemic – people struggling with poverty, homelessness, food insecurity, and mental health and addiction issues. .
The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP), which represents some 90,000 off-reserve and unregistered Aboriginal people, has gone to court to protest the funding it claims to be “inadequate and discriminatory” compared to what others Aboriginal groups have received.
In mid-March, the government created the $ 305 million Indigenous Community Support Fund, most of which went to organizations representing First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities to help them prepare and to deal with the pandemic.
Only $ 15 million of this amount has been allocated to off-reserve organizations, even though they serve more than half of Canada’s Aboriginal population. CAP, which is seeking $ 16 million, has received only $ 250,000 of that amount.
“The amount CAP has received for our constituents across Canada is a slap,” said the group’s national chief, Robert Bertrand, to a Commons committee last week.
The off reserve population feels “invisible”: the association
The additional funding announced by Trudeau today should go to organizations like the National Association of Friendship Centers.
The association says it has delivered food, faced increased family violence, cared for seniors, and helped off-reserve Aboriginal people find safe shelter and transportation, and seek emergency assistance, despite the little financial aid from Ottawa.
Association President Christopher Sheppard-Buote told the Commons committee last week that people who do not live on a First Nations reserve or in an Inuit or Métis community feel “invisible” to the federal government. during the pandemic.
But other emergency assistance programs created for the general population – including the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) of $ 2,000 per month and the 75% wage subsidy program – are available to eligible off-reserve Aboriginals.
The government also announced in April federal funding of up to $ 306.8 million to help Aboriginal small and medium-sized businesses and to support Aboriginal institutions that provide financing to these businesses.
At the time, the government said the funding – to provide short-term interest-free loans and non-repayable contributions – would help some 6,000 Aboriginal-owned businesses survive the pandemic.