A change in approach is needed to improve conditions on reserves

(Chapter 4—Programs for First Nations on Reserves—2011 Status Report of the Auditor General)

Ottawa, 9 June 2011—Progress toward improving conditions on First Nations reserves is unsatisfactory, says John Wiersema, Interim Auditor General of Canada, in a Status Report tabled today in the House of Commons. The Report looks at education, housing, and water quality on reserves, among other things.

“I am very disappointed that conditions on reserves have worsened and are well below the national average,” said Mr. Wiersema.

The audit found that the education gap between First Nations living on reserves and the general Canadian population has widened, housing is in poor condition and the housing shortage has increased. More than half of the drinking water systems on reserves still pose a significant risk to communities.

A preface to the report discusses four broader concerns that have inhibited progress. First, the federal government has not defined the level and range of services it will provide on reserves. Further, services are provided as a matter of policy, not legislation; a legislative base would constitute an unambiguous commitment by government to deliver the services. In addition, the use of annual contribution agreements to fund ongoing services makes it uncertain whether communities can count on timely and stable funding. Finally, there are few organizations such as school boards and health boards to support the delivery of services on reserves

“Improving conditions on reserves will be a difficult challenge,” said Mr. Wiersema. “It will take First Nations and government working together in new ways to resolve these issues.”

The Status Report follows up on the government’s progress in implementing commitments made to address issues identified in previous reports. Progress is deemed either satisfactory or unsatisfactory, taking into account the complexity or significance of the issues and the amount of time that has passed since the original audit.

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The chapter “Programs for First Nations on Reserves” is available on the Office of the Auditor General of Canada website.

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