NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh speaks with reporters before attending Question Period in Ottawa on May 9, 2023. Singh said cuts in funding could be on the way for federal First Nations programs. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)Seth Forward, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said his party is on “high alert” for potential cuts to funding for Indigenous programs ahead of the 2024 federal budget. 

Singh said the party is concerned about reports that approximately $7 billion in funding for First Nations programs could be dropped from what is expected to be a slim budget. 

“We’re worried, we want to be very vigilant to make sure that this doesn’t happen,” he said in an interview with The Northern View

Singh identified housing infrastructure, health-care and child welfare as the “major gaps” that currently exist in federal funding for First Nations communities. 

Singh referenced an auditor general’s report tabled on March 19, which deemed the federal government is “failing to improve housing conditions for First Nations communities.” 

The report said more than 55,000 housing units need to be built and more than 80,000 need to be repaired across Canada. 

“I’ve been to many reserves across the country and I can tell you I’ve seen the overcrowding,” he said. 

“I’ve seen the mould in buildings, I’ve seen really heartbreaking examples of families crammed into spaces that are not suitable.” 

He said that while visiting northwest B.C. with NDP MLA Taylor Bachrach, he saw desperate housing conditions and poor heating systems. 

“Another issue specifically in the Northwest for a lot of the homes … were built with electric heating and baseboard electric heating, which is completely inappropriate for the type of cold that we all know is in Canada generally, but specifically in the North,” he said. 

Health-care challenges currently facing Northwest communities will only become worse with the potential cuts, according to Singh. 

“Any additional cuts will just make many of those existing problems worse,” he said. 

“Cuts to health-care when Indigenous communities already have less access, worse outcomes. Any additional cuts would just mean even more pain.” 

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre told The Northern View in a January interview that if elected, he would improve conditions for First Nations in the Northwest by fast-tracking major natural resource projects like the LNG Canada facility in Kitimat. 

Singh disputed Poilievre’s claims, saying the Opposition Leader would only make cuts that would harm First Nations communities. 

Funding for searches of unmarked graves and other reconciliation efforts could also be cut this year, according to Singh. 

“There’s some concern that the funds that were allocated to help find the bodies of missing children, children in unmarked graves, that fund that was dedicated to helping communities that chose to do that work … that is one of the areas where we’re worried might be cut,” he said. 

The 2024 annual budget is expected to be released by the federal government on April 16. 

By Seth Forward, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 25, 2024 at 10:17

This item reprinted with permission from   The Northern View   Prince Rupert, British Columbia

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