OTTAWA -- The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs will lose more than three-quarters of its core federal funding under a new plan by the federal government to streamline its payments to regional aboriginal organizations.
The AMC, which represents all 63 Manitoba First Nations, found out in a press release late Tuesday night Ottawa is rejigging the funding of representative aboriginal organizations. The release was followed up with a phone call from the Manitoba regional director of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada on Wednesday morning.
The six national aboriginal organizations, including the Assembly of First Nations, will have a 10 per cent cut in 2014-15 to their $9.6 million in core funding.
The 39 regional aboriginal organizations, including the AMC, will see either a 10 per cent cut or a cap of $500,000 applied to their core funding. For the AMC, that means an 81 per cent cut from more than $2 million to $500,000.
Additional funding will be provided on a per-project basis in one of four targeted areas: education, economic development, on-reserve infrastructure, land-management and governance programs.
"We've got to figure out a way to survive this," said AMC Grand Chief Derek Nepinak.
The AMC fears it might have to lay off half of its 76 staff and reduce its policy work on everything from education and housing to natural resource development and slain and missing women.
Nepinak did not mince words when he said he believes the government is doing this to try to stamp out aboriginal organizations that are often critical of the government's decisions and stand in the way of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's agenda to develop billions in natural resources that lie on aboriginal lands.
"He's silencing the voice of aboriginal criticism," said Nepinak.
In the press release, Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan said the change is coming to create healthier, more self-sufficient aboriginal communities and "to make funding more equitable among organizations across the country.