Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt says the federal government wants to get out of the business of funding political organizations and focus more on what it says are the core needs of Indigenous people.

The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations laid off 66 employees earlier this week and blamed financial cuts from the Harper government as the reason for the decision.

Valcourt, who was in Saskatoon to announce the first phase of an on-reserve youth jobs training program Friday morning, says the government wants to focus its energies on things like skills training for Aboriginal people rather than the funding of political lobby groups.

“What we are concerned about as a government is to ensure, however, that the finite resources we have go to activities that bring about results on what matters to First Nations communities,” he says.

He adds less dependence on government funding could give the FSIN more independence as a lobby group.

“These political organizations will have much, much more, and be truly effective, as Grand Chief Bellegarde says, if they are independent from the government and they should.”

The Harper government has cut about $2 million from the FSIN’s budget over the last two years.