The Northwest Territory Metis Nation (NWTMN) has cancelled its February and March land claim negotiations because the federal government’s new funding program is severely under-delivering, said president Garry Bailey.
“The only thing they say is they don’t have any money,” said Bailey. “They don’t have any other excuse. Well, I know Canada’s not broke. They’re giving money (out) all over the country.”
“I’ve got enough funding that I can keep staff on,” he added. “I don’t have to lay people off, thank God.”
Since the federal government replaced its loan system to fund Indigenous negotiations with a grant system last year – seen by many as a good first step – Bailey said the NWTMN has only received close to a third of what it’s asked for, which it otherwise would have been able to take out a loan to fund.
“To shut down two main table sessions is something that goes against everything they’ve been promoting,” he said.
Bailey said that, previously, the NWTMN would take out a loan for $1.6 million and get a contribution of the same, bringing them to $3.2 million.
In 2017-18, the NWTMN spent $3 million on five main table negotiation sessions – where the overall agreement discussions take place.
This past year, 11 were scheduled and Bailey said the NWTMN had to fight hard to get $550,000 to bring their total funding up to $3 million.
“For them to cut the funding and double the work plan, it just makes no sense,” said Bailey.
The funding goes towards travel, accommodations and wages for the negotiating team, as well as workshops with NWTMN membership.
“No further negotiation funding is available this year,” stated Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada spokesperson Tim Kenny in a response to News/North.
He said the NWTMN received comparable funding to previous years and that the department is working towards a “shared solution.”
“To this end, the minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations recently met with the president of the NWTMN in Ottawa, and the department remains actively engaged with the NWTMN to develop a work plan for 2019-20,” wrote Kenny.
Bailey said the NWTMN will be negotiating for a more realistic level of funding for the next fiscal year, starting in April.
The land claim negotiations are in the final stages, he said, and he’s eager to get them finished.
“I think that we have it nailed down to what the issues really are and it all boils to the offer,” he said.