By Penny Smoke
First Nations leaders of Saskatchewan are pleased with the commitments to education and employment, but still wonder why there is no revenue sharing from the provincial government in this year’s 2013-2014 budget.
Reporters and politicians gathered on March 20, 2013 at the Saskatchewan legislative building to find out what this year's themed “Balanced Growth” budget had in store.
Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) Chief Perry Bellegarde reiterated at the gathering that revenue sharing must be a priority for First Nations people.
Chief Bellegarde also acknowledged the fact that the cost of First Nations being unemployed and on social assistance, as well as in the justice system is too high. He said that investing in programs such as education, justice and the health sector is something that will help the province achieve its economic potential.
“First Nations people aren’t asking for a special deal. All we are asking for is for Canada’s constitution is respected, the right of Indigenous people to be respected, and treaty rights to be honored, respected and implemented... And so people in Saskatchewan have to get their heads around that, because when you start looking at really key concepts like resource revenue sharing that’s going to start creating economic certainty in this province and that going to be good for everybody,” said Chief Bellegarde.
“We've got to start looking at key investment sectors. Having said that, I can acknowledge this government has put $3 million dollars in place for the joint task force recommendation implementations on education, so that’s a positive step, but there still exist a huge socioeconomic gap that needs to be addressed really strategically.”
The provincial government has set aside $3 million dollars to follow up on the recommendations of a joint task force that is looking into ways to implement programs and initiatives to improve education and employment for First Nations people of Saskatchewan.
“I think it speaks to the importance of First Nations and Métis people to this government and the commitment to making opportunities available for them to be engaged in the economy,” said Jim Reiter, minister of First Nations and Métis relations
“As for revenue sharing off- reserve, First Nations are benefiting from that fund because they are living in our cities, town and municipalities, so all citizen benefit from the revenue sharing. The cities will see grants go up by $5 million dollars this year, so First Nations will benefit with all the other citizens.”