While commentators, observers and pundits were busy focusing on the monetary commitment from Ottawa for First Nation education (which is very important, don’t get me wrong), they may have missed that the federal government is moving on actually trying to deal with long term causes of poverty on reserves.
The first indication is a renewed commitment to bands seeking to opt into the First Nations Land Management Act. In a nutshell, the FNLMA allows bands under the Indian Act to opt out of the land use and resource provisions of the Indian Act. This is important because it reduces federal oversight and allows bands to directly control their economic development. Why people should care is studies show that bands under the FNLMA do better on a range of indicators, including income and job creation.
The second overlooked aspect is the streamlining of regulations for major resource projects. This benefits bands because this is where the jobs are for First Nations, especially in isolated communities. Mining, oil pipelines, forestry.. This provide jobs and incomes.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, the budget commits the government to “explore with interested First Nations the option of moving forward with legislation” to deal with private property ownership within current reserve boundaries. That the govt was considering this is no secret, but now we have evidence they will try to implement this. In the long term, this is the best way to create wealth and create sustainable First Nation economies.
All of these budget items should be applauded.