FSIN Vice Chief Morley Watson speaks to reporters about First Nations issues in the budget at the Sask. legislature on March 21, 2012. Photo by Tiffany Cassidy.
by Tiffany Cassidy
The Saskatchewan Government’s 2012-13 budget introduced new $1.5 million agreements with First Nations communities in the north. The “First Nations Forestry Agreements” have been negotiated with First Nations leaders and will provide dollars directly to bands, said Minister of Finance Ken Krawetz.
Details were hard to come by as much of the budget day focus was on infrastructure, senior care, and the film employment tax credit winding down. When asked, neither Krawetz nor Ken Cheveldayoff, Minister of First Nations and Métis relations, could provide specifics on how the programs will work, or which bands will receive funding.
The money will come from the budget for energy and resources. However, Bill Boyd, Minister of Energy and Resources, left the media scrums early for a meeting with stakeholders, and was unavailable to comment on details of the agreements.
Warren McCall, NDP critic for First Nations and Métis relations, said the agreements may fund training for First Nations people to improve employment opportunities. He said he would like to see more done in this area.
“Anything is better than nothing, but it’s hardly earth shattering,” he said. “It’s a matter of priorities.”
He said a main focus of the province should be about bridging the gap in opportunities between First Nations and non First Nations people in economic, employment, and educational areas.
FSIN Vice Chief Morley Watson was at the legislature on Wednesday, watching to see how the provincial government addressed the challenges found in First Nations communities.
He said he thinks it shows an effort by the government to improve skills and education for First Nations people, but added “we always need to make sure that we’re doing the most we can.”
No one was able to comment on specific details of this new part of the budget, but the B.C. government introduced a First Nations Forest Sector Technical Support Program in January. If the Sask. program is modelled after this, it would give First Nations people technical advice to develop new and existing forestry-related business.