Below is a brief snippet taken from John Ivison's column in today's National Post. The column illustrates where some of the $8 billion per year Canadians spend on Aboriginal affairs ends up.
The entire article is available on line (subscribers only) or on newstands.
- "OTTAWA - There is a popular misconception, according to the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, that Canada's First Nations descend on Ottawa once a year in gigantic tractor-trailers, load up with bags of federal government cash and then drive home again.
This image has been fuelled by stories of bribery and corruption on a minority of native reserves and by references to the billions of dollars at the disposal of the Indian Affairs department.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says funding for native programs doubled in the 12 years to 2002, to $6.6-billion from $3.3-billion, and native spending per capita is roughly double that for other Canadians. Yet, officials asked to break down aboriginal funding say the $6-billion the department now spends every year is largely devoted to basic services similar to those provided by various levels of government to other Canadians -- and at a comparable rate.
Apart from particular programs such as post-secondary assistance, where aboriginal Canadians receive more generous allowances than the average Canadian, officials say the amount paid to individuals for elementary and secondary education or for welfare reflects rates that are similar to those received by other Canadians in the same province. Of course, for bands like the Samson First Nation, near Edmonton, where 80% of residents are on welfare and 85% are unemployed, Ottawa's share of the local economy is huge.
In total, the federal government will be spend about $8-billion on natives across Canada this year. This mostly flows through Indian and Northern Affairs (INAC) but also includes Health Canada, which spends around $1-billion on native health, and 11 other departments such as Canadian Heritage, which this year will spend $28-million on aboriginal associations, women's groups, community groups and friendship centres.
Provincial government funding varies. In provinces like Ontario, where 70% of natives live off reserve, direct spending is about $40-million and restricted to land claims. Around $4.8-billion of the INAC budget is spent on basic services, with the remaining $1.2-billion allocated to administration (the department employs about 4,000 people), litigation and land claims.
Officials say that the money is largely a reimbursement of actual spending by the First Nation. For example in elementary and secondary education, funding is dependent on how many children are attending school, with the First Nation being reimbursed at rates comparable to funding for provincial schools. The rate may vary from province to province, and there may be special funding to recognize remoteness or size of school. But officials maintain that Indian Affairs provides funding "with reasonable comparability to other Canadians living in similar geographic circumstances."