It’s been a tough few days for employees at the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.

Sixty-six of them, which is pretty much the entire workforce, have received layoff notices effective Mar. 31.

The organization says the layoffs are in response to federal funding cuts.

In addition to $875,000 clawed back in transfers to the FSIN last year, the Harper government has cut another $1.1 million from this year’s budget.

FSIN Chief Perry Bellegarde says the organization decided to issue the layoff notices now so staff have lots of time to prepare and look for other employment.

He says they will be offered their jobs back on April 1 if the federation can find alternate streams of revenue.

Bellegarde says they will do their best to find the money elsewhere but in the meantime the FSIN’s ability to lobby for the province’s First Nations has been diminished.

“The government found a way to weaken a strong Indian voice because our lobby efforts are going to be weakened because we’re not going to have the policy analysts on staff, we’re not going to have the legal counsel on staff, we’re not going to be able to do effective communications because everything’s been cut back,” he says.

He adds the funding cuts will also affect the position of the chiefs and some belt tightening will have to occur.

“These dollars that I speak about do affect our political operations so until we find new funding streams there could be a restructuring of our FSIN vice-chiefs and that’s what we’re going to bring to the assembly on February 12 and 13.”

Bellegarde says the upcoming winter assembly will be a crucial one for the organization.