Saskatchewan budget sees more money for First Nation, Métis issues

First Nations and Métis Peoples in Saskatchewan are getting a 20 per cent boost in cash from the province according to the latest provincial budget.

According to the numbers, the yearly budget for First Nations and Métis initiatives will be $233 million. The money will be spread out over gaming, duty to consult initiatives, career training, on-reserve policing and post-secondary programs.

There is also money for the Métis Addictions Council and alternative justice. The Saskatchewan Income Support Payments plan includes a budget of $11.4 million.

People under the plan will see their monthly income go up by $30 and shelter benefits by $25 per month.

Saskatoon shelters estimate more than half their clientele are Indigenous and the NDPs Social Services Critic Meara Conway said during debate in the legislature that the increase does nothing to help families to live.

“These pitiful tweaks just aren’t solutions. As desperate as that minister is for a good news story, this isn’t that,” she told the legislature. “This will go no distance to providing relief for the struggling families coming out of a pandemic. Mr. Speaker, a buck a day.”

The budget doesn’t contain money for shelters for women and children dealing with domestic violence, or for safe drug consumption sites.

Kayla DeMong, executive director of Prairie Harm Reduction, which operates Saskatoon’s safe consumption site, said a comprehensive strategy for the vulnerable is still needed.

“We know that in our province we have the longstanding intergenerational effects of colonialism that are still existing today,” she said. “Our systems and our policies really aren’t created or built to bring Indigenous people up and to empower them and we’re dealing with ongoing overpopulation in our justice system, in our corrections system, in our child welfare system.

“These are all layers of things that then put people in situations where substances are a coping mechanism for all these traumas that are being created.”

Other spending on Indigenous initiatives include:

$28.1 million in targeted career training funding for First Nation and Métis Institutions and initiatives;

$18.6 million for Indigenous post-secondary programs and institutions;

$18.3 million for First Nations on-reserve policing and enhanced policing;

$3.5 million for Métis Addictions Council of Saskatchewan Inc;

$4.1 million for the Community Justice Alternative Measures program

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