Indigenous Leadership Council Pressing Province for Clarity and Say on Block Funding

February 22, 2019

Indigenous Leadership Council Pressing Province for Clarity and Say on Block Funding

Winnipeg, MB–The Indigenous Leadership Council met yesterday with Minister of Families, Heather Stefanson, to discuss the province’s decision to move to block funding for children and family services.
The Indigenous Leadership Council includes President David Chartrand of the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF), Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO), and Grand Chief Garrison Settee of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO). The province is to work with the Leadership Council towards better outcomes for Indigenous Children and Families in the province. For the last two years, however, the provincial government has failed to meet with the Leadership Council, despite a previous commitment to meet every quarter.
During the meeting the three Leaders expressed their concerns to Minister Stefanson. They noted that they had not been consulted on the decision to move to block funding. Furthermore, the Leaders noted that the Minister only contacted them at the eleventh hour and then only to schedule a telephone meeting on short notice. The telephone meeting took place on February 11th, but according to President Chartrand, the Minister left the meeting before the Leaders could ask questions.
Yesterday’s meeting left more unanswered questions about the allocation of the $435,000,000 of block funding for the four child and family authorities. According to the Manitoba Liberal Party Leader, Dougald Lamont, the amount of funding proposed in this new plan is $108,000,000 less than the $543,000,000 agencies spent in 2017/2018. During the meeting, Minister Stefanson could not answer questions about how the funding would be split between the authorities. The Metis Child and Family Services Authority currently receives approximately $61,000,000 per year for approximately 1,200 Métis children in care. As President Chartrand noted, "We do not know if this amount will be the same, decrease, or increase for the next fiscal. There is no information on how we are going to support prevention so that our children do not wind up in care in the first place."

Despite the many unanswered questions, the meeting showed some promise from the province with Minister Stefanson agreeing to meet with the Leadership Council in early March. As President Chartrand noted, "We need to all work together. But if the province is telling us that they know best, than how is that cooperation? How is that reconciliation? From my perspective, the Minister recognized that the role of the Leadership Council needs to be clarified and that she will put that on the agenda when we meet again in two weeks."
All three Leaders made it clear to the Minister that as the representatives for their respective governments, they should be consulted by the provincial government on funding, policy, and strategic decisions.
"We need to invest in prevention funding now," said President Chartrand, "so that we are not paying the costs later on. We need to support our children and families. If the province tries to cap it now, if they continue with their focus on funding child removals and family interventions, then we will all pay more money in justice, health, unemployment, and homelessness in the long run. We share the same vision of fiscal responsibility with the province, but fiscal responsibility means that we cannot make decisions that are harmful to our children. We need to look after the children and support our families before crisis hits them and the children are removed. Without transparency from the province, we have no way of knowing if our children are being short-changed. They are our future; we need to protect them."
Believe in Yourself; Believe in Métis.
The Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) is the official democratic and self-governing political representative for the Métis Nation’s Manitoba Métis Community. The Manitoba Métis are Canada’s Negotiating Partner in Confederation and the Founders of the Province of Manitoba.

For media information, please contact:

Barney Morin, Communications Coordinator
Manitoba Metis Federation
Office: (204) 586-8474 x277
Cell: (204) 391-0717

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