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(Ottawa, ON, May 4th, 2006) “This week’s Federal Budget tabled by the new national government in the House of Commons was a significant step in the right direction in its recognition of the needs and aspirations of off-reserve and non-status Indians.

The measures in the budget in respect of investing in off-reserve Aboriginal housing reflected the new government’s commitment to the Congress that it intends on ensuring Aboriginal programming and services become better targeted to all Aboriginal peoples regardless of place of residency or status.

There are some who believe this budget represents an abandonment of the Kelowna commitments. We disagree completely with this. Through this budget, the government has set about to honour its commitments, which include a pledge to revisit the Kelowna investments. Off-reserve Aboriginal peoples were promised investment of $300 million in the Kelowna commitments. Through this budget the Harper government has delivered on this promise.

We believe the only commitment from Kelowna that deserves abandonment is the distinctions-based framework put in place by the former Liberal government. This approach sought to exclude non-status and off-reserve Indians, as well as Aboriginal women and children, from sharing in the considerable investments Kelowna aimed to deliver.

Further, the Congress remains concerned that little if any attention was paid at the First Ministers Meeting to ensuring that there would be proper accountability and transparency around the Kelowna commitments.

We support the new national government’s aim to revisit the approach to the Kelowna commitments, and develop workable solutions to the already-established targets. We applaud their commitment to working with national Aboriginal organizations and with the Provinces and Territories to “put wheels on the Kelowna targets” as Minister Prentice has termed it.

The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and its Provincial affiliates support the government’s call for strong accountability and governance structures in order to make the application of the investments sustainable and effective. We will work with the new government in this regard, and look forward discussing our ideas for strengthening the proposed Federal Accountabilities Act, with the Prime Minister and Ministers Prentice and Baird.

In considering the Aboriginal component to the Federal budget, we would encourage other Aboriginal organizations to take a more prudent and pragmatic approach to making the Kelowna commitments a reality. The government continues to honour its commitments to the Congress and the Forgotten People for whom it speaks. The Federal budget was a down payment on the prosperity the Kelowna commitments seek to deliver.

There is much to be done, and the new national government has offered a broad and sustainable plan to bring about the prosperity that Canada’s Aboriginal people so richly deserve. I say we should all dispense with the rhetoric and get on with the task at hand. A generation awaits the progress we can forge together.

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For further information, please contact:

Al Fleming
Director of Strategy Development and Public Affairs
Congress of Aboriginal Peoples

(613) 747-6022 office
(613) 867-8696 mobile

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