AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde pictured on March 16. Photo courtesy @perrybellegarde, Twitter.
The Assembly of First Nations has an overall positive impression of the federal budget that was unveiled on Wednesday, and its leader is not surprised by some new announcements made for First Nations people.
The AFN says the Liberal government is moving closer to closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.
To that end, the budget allocates an extra $3.4 billion over five years on top of the previously allocated $8.4 billion.
AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde commented on the boost at a media conference in Ottawa Thursday morning.
"It might seem like a lot of money, and it is, because there really hasn't been that much dollars allocated to Indigenous peoples, basically ever. So it is, in that sense, unprecedented," he said.
"We have to be more diligent, keep putting the pressure on that that commitment is upheld, and again, be more effective, be more efficient, but make sure those resources get out so they have meaningful impact on the ground and that's what our job is as AFN."
Bellegarde said this year's budget addresses items he felt were overlooked in Finance Minister Bill Morneau's first Liberal budget in 2016.
"We lobbied hard for post-secondary because last year there was nothing in post-secondary and we said 'look, there's no better way to get First Nations people out of poverty than a good education.' And we've got thousands of students on the waitlist wanting to attend universities and technical vocational schools."
He says $90 million over two years on that front will make a dent.
Meanwhile, Canada's foremost Indigenous child welfare advocate has a scathing response to the budget.
The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society's Cindy Blackstock said there is nothing new for the implementation of a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling on First Nations children in care, and nothing new for First Nations children and their families.
Conversely, Bellegarde said he sees work being done.
"It's an ongoing thing. And I think everybody agrees that more should be done for our children," he said.
"You've got Canadian Human Rights Tribunal binding decisions that are there directing cabinet and government to end discrimination, you’ve got a unanimous vote in the House of Commons which speaks to investments that should be immediately put in place to end discrimination."