Indigenous Affairs Third-Party Policy - Can it be Improved?
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The Aboriginal peoples of Canada have had a long and checkered past with regard to their fiscal relations with the Government of Canada. The paternalism that has marked this relationship has existed since the 1800’s when church and state used residential schools to try to assimilate the Native people of Canada. The reserve system imposed a stationary lifestyle on Native peoples. The Government was to provide food and lodging on reserves rather than allow the Native people to live off the land. By removing the freedom to move about, Natives had to adjust to living a stationary life rather than following the game or moving the village every five years or so. The Territories of First Nations became far smaller than what they formerly enjoyed because the reserves created boundaries which were not there before contact. Instead the various Tribes had their own system of recognized Territory where a river or landmark might be the end of one Territory and the beginning of another. The elected system was forced onto the First Nations in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. This foreign system of governance, which received funding from the Federal Government, created a reliance on the outside government to provide services to the community. Because the Federal Government controlled the purse strings, the reserve had limited powers to do as they wished. Today, it is widely understood that there is never enough money for First Nations to do all that they wish to do and, in most cases, there are funding shortfalls for such things as building and road maintenance and staffing for local governance. Many of the funding formulas used by the Federal Government have not changed since the 1980’s and 1990’s while some areas within a First Nation community are not funded at all. The education formula, as an example, had been capped since the 1990’s resulting in on-reserve children getting funded at $7,000 per year compared to over $10,000 per year for those off reserve. As a result, the First Nations of Canada are challenged financially to manage their communities and control their budgets as a whole. The current Trudeau government has formally uncapped the education funding and has created a fund for Indigenous languages and culture. This is welcome news to the First Nations of Canada. A significant area of contention between the Government and First Nations involves the Default Prevention and Management Policy (DPMP), which was designed to assist in the delivery and control of federally-funded programs. There are 143 First Nations involved in one of the three levels of intervention under the DPMP. For those in the first level, a Management Action Plan is developed by the First Nation and accepted by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC). This plan is meant to assist the First Nation in getting out of deficit. There are 74 First Nations nationally that fall under this section of the policy or 51.7 per cent of those involved. The second level involves a recipient-appointed advisor who works with the First Nation to ensure that there is no recurrence of the problem. There are 61 advisors in place nationally or 42.6 per cent. of those involved in third-party policy. Finally, there are eight First Nations involved in the Third-Party Funding Agreement Management or 5 per cent of the total. These managers are appointed by INAC and ensure the administration of INAC funding. It is by far the most intrusive part of the INAC policy as the fund managers work directly within the First Nation. By region, BC and Alberta have only 8 per cent and 4.8 per cent, respectively, of their First Nations involved in third-party, indicating good management practices. By contrast, Manitoba is over-represented with 46 or 32 per cent nationally. Ontario is next with 31 First Nations or 21 per cent nationally that are involved in the Third-Party policy. This paper will focus on the Third-Party Management system with an aim to explore the problems of third-party management and possible approaches for improving the policy for First Nations affected by it.