Mr. Speaker, it has been over four years since the Prime Minister stood in this House and promised healing and reconciliation for aboriginal people of Canada as part of the apology. Since that time, the government has moved in exactly the opposite direction.
Astonishingly, the Conservatives started by killing the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and then slashed the funding for first nation, Inuit and Métis organizations delivering health and healing from coast to coast to coast in this country.
Just this month, funding cuts targeting aboriginal political organizations and tribal councils appear to cut core funding by 10%, or much more for some organizations, by also capping funding at $500,000. These cuts will also eliminate the political advisory roles of tribal councils, further silencing first nation voices.
How can the Conservatives continue to download responsibility on our first nation governments with no new resources, and then cut their already limited capacity at the same time?
This approach not only flies in the face of the government's commitment to reconciliation and co-operation, but it is also setting first nations up to fail. It will be the aboriginal people across this country already denied access to basic services who will pay the price for this cynical approach.
The funding for health care programs and services provided by organizations such as the Native Women's Association of Canada, the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada has been cut or eliminated completely.
These cuts are occurring in numerous program areas, including the aboriginal diabetes initiative, the aboriginal health human resources initiative, the national aboriginal youth suicide prevention strategy, the aboriginal health transition fund, the fetal alcohol spectrum disorder program, the maternal and child health program and the blood-borne diseases and sexually transmitted infections HIV-AIDS program.
We are also aware of the fact that a high percentage of the cuts to staff at Health Canada will be made in the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch.
Cuts to aboriginal health promotion and disease prevention programs are misguided and inappropriate, and will actually increase health costs over the long term while perpetuating gaps in health outcomes for first nation and Inuit peoples.
These cuts will significantly erode the ability of Health Canada, specifically the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, to fulfill its mandate to address the gaps in health outcomes between first nations and Inuit and the non-aboriginal population.
With regard to the key health indicators, first nations and Inuit have lower incomes and are highly vulnerable to communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis, and to chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. They also have a significantly lower life expectancy.
I urge the government to act now and reverse these short-sighted cuts.