Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference Friday April 16, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference Friday April 16, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

$18B Indigenous spending in Budget 2021 meant for short-term gaps: Miller

Includes a three-year investment to improve access to justice

OTTAWA — Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says the 2021 federal budget marks a historic level of investment in Indigenous communities, but he acknowledges much of this spending addresses systemic funding gaps and that longer-term, sustained spending will need to continue.

The Liberal government plans to spend more than $18 billion over the next five years to narrow the socio-economic gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and to help these communities fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additional amounts have also been earmarked in other departments that will go toward helping Indigenous communities, including $2.5 billion over five years for distinctions-based early learning and child care and $108.6 million over five years for First Nations policing.

The budget also promises a three-year investment of $74.8 million to improve access to justice for First Nations people through the development of an Indigenous justice strategy, aimed at tackling systemic discrimination and over-representation in the criminal justice system.

While the total spending earmarked for Canada’s First Peoples in Budget 2021 may be an eye-popping number compared to previous budgets, Miller says it’s important to remember this reflects long-standing funding shortfalls in First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities for basic things like clean water, access to local health care and First Nations policing.

“The size of the investments, they didn’t come without reflection,” Miller said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“My team put a tremendous amount of effort in trying to quantify the investments in infrastructure, for example, that we need to start closing the gap in the relatively short-term as part of the general effort of stimulus and touching on the themes in the budget, fighting COVID and getting out of it in a strong way.”

Investments of $6 billion over five years are included in the budget are meant to be investments for “shovel-ready projects” over the next three to five years flagged as critical infrastructure by local chiefs and communities, Miller said.

This includes $1.7 billion earmarked for operations and maintenance costs of community infrastructure in communities on reserve.

Maintenance spending may not be “a headline grabber,” Miller said, but is important for communities to know the federal government will support the upkeep and preservation of critical assets in their communities, including equal pay for equal work.

“A very important thing I kept hearing back from Indigenous communities was, ‘Where will you be after March 2021?’ knowing these assets need proper planning and support over the course of their lifespan,” Miller said, pointing specifically to the decades-long battle to lift First Nations boil-water advisories.

Meanwhile, Indigenous Services Canada will soon launch a strategy with Indigenous communities to get a clearer sense of their long-term plans and individual needs.

This will be used to quantify and put a reliable dollar figure on the of longer-term federal investments needed to help lift Indigenous communities into a more equal standard of living as non-Indigenous ones, Miller said.

In his mandate letter penned in December 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tasked Miller with co-developing distinctions-based community infrastructure plans for Indigenous communities and to move forward with addressing critical needs including housing, all-weather roads, high-speed internet, health facilities, treatment centres and schools in First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities by 2030.

“That will require sustained investments in infrastructure over the long term,” Miller said, adding that he firmly believes Trudeau is willing to invest both the political and financial capital into turning these spending promises into a reality.

Many national Indigenous organizations and groups that represent First Nations, Inuit and Metis people voiced cautious optimism about the large sums dedicated toward their unique needs in Budget 2021 after its release on Monday.

Miller said he hopes all Canadians will understand the large sums secured for Indigenous communities are not “discretionary in nature,” but rather should be viewed through a lens of Canada making reparations for past wrongs and righting historic funding shortfalls.

“That’s an educational element that escapes even most of us when we see very, very large (budget) numbers. A lot of them are meant to close gaps that are unacceptable,” he said.

“These investments are continuous and will need to be continuous as we work with Indigenous communities to right historical wrongs and to invest in the future of Indigenous Peoples.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 23, 2021.

2021 Federal BudgetIndigenous

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

file photo
PM tells Canadians to prepare for one-dose summer, two-dose fall

Chief Public Health Officer says 75 per cent getting first dose is target to avoid fourth wave

Chris Scott, owner of the Whistle Stop Cafe, speaks during a rally against measures taken by government and health authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19 at his cafe in Mirror on Saturday. The Whistle Stop was shut down by AHS for not complying with COVID-19 rules. (Photo by The Canadian Press)
Central Alberta café owner and COVID-19 protester released from custody

Chris Scott was arrested at protest rally outside his cafe on Saturday

Free items can be left in front of homes during this weekend’s Kick it to the Curb event. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Kick It to the Curb runs this weekend in Red Deer

Unwanted items can be left by the curb this weekend in Red… Continue reading

Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro announced Wednesday that Alberta Health will give rapid COVID-19 tests to a local chamber of commerce, who will then distribute them to local businesses. (Photo by Paul Taillon/Office of the Premier)
Businesses to get access to rapid COVID-19 tests through local chamber of commerce

Alberta Health is partnering with the Alberta Chamber of Commerce to deliver… Continue reading

A 2018 Jayco Pinnacle fifth wheel model 37MDQS valued at over $100,000 was stolen from Masco RV Storage in Wetaskiwin earlier this week. (Photo courtesy of Wetaskiwin RCMP)
A 2018 Jayco Pinnacle fifth wheel model 37MDQS valued at over $100,000 was stolen from Masco RV Storage in Wetaskiwin earlier this week. (Photo courtesy of Wetaskiwin RCMP)
Fifth wheel RV stolen from Wetaskiwin RV Storage compound

Wetaskiwin RCMP is looking for information about a stolen RV. A break-in… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Here is a list of latest COVID-19 restrictions in effect in Alberta

New mandatory health restrictions are now in effect in Alberta. Additional restrictions… Continue reading

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) celebrates with defenseman Victor Hedman (77) after the team defeated the Dallas Stars during an NHL hockey game Wednesday, May 5, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
Analysis: McDavid NHL’s MVP front-runner in condensed season

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid has 100-plus point season

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell (36) makes a save as Maple Leafs defenceman TJ Brodie (78) and Montreal Canadiens forward Tyler Toffoli (73) look for the rebound during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Saturday, May 8, 2021. The Leafs and the Canadiens will meet in the playoffs for the first time in 42 years when the 2020-21 NHL post-season gets underway.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Singer Celine Dion performs during her first World Tour show called Courage Wednesday, September 18, 2019 at the Videotron Centre in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Songbird Uncaged: Celine Dion readies return to Las Vegas stage for 10-date run

Starting on Nov. 5, Dion will play 10 dates at the Resorts World Las Vegas theatre

An Empire Day/Victoria Day gathering of school children on Ross Street by the Cenotaph in the 1920s. On the right hand side, are members of the Red Deer Citizens Band (forerunner of the Red Deer Royals). (Photo via Red Deer Archives)
Victoria Day event helped after war

One hundred years ago, on May 24, 1921, a major community event… Continue reading

Gwynne Dyer
Gwynne Dyer: Independence is a one-way gate

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland declared in 2014 that the referendum… Continue reading

Boston Bruins left wing Nick Ritchie (21) and Washington Capitals defenseman Brenden Dillon (4) battle for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, May 11, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Raffl’s late goal pushes Capitals past Bruins, 2-1

Raffl’s late goal pushes Capitals past Bruins, 2-1

Chicago Blackhawks left wing Alex DeBrincat (12) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers in Chicago, Saturday, May 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Toews’ question chases Chicago Blackhawks into offseason

Toews’ question chases Chicago Blackhawks into offseason

Most Read