UPDATE 11/22 2:16 PM
The Government of Saskatchewan announced today it is updating its approach to Per Capita Distribution payments for First Nations members receiving income assistance.
“Our government remains committed to the ongoing journey of reconciliation,” Social Services Minister Gene Makowsky said. “After conducting a policy review, the ministry is exempting per capita distribution payments for First Nations members receiving Saskatchewan Income Support or Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability benefits.”
Per capita distribution payments are made by First Nations to their members resulting from a specific claim within the meaning of the Specific Claim Tribunal Act (Canada). Previously, the ministry was exempting per capita distribution payments for First Nations members receiving income assistance up to $15,000 per member, per settlement.
Saskatchewan First Nations leaders are demanding a meeting with provincial and federal officials over a new financial policy, which they claim targets the poorest of the poor.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations alleges that income assistance recipients could see a claw back in benefits, if they receive a Specific Claims payout of more than $15,000.
“To put caps on the benefits that our membership will receive is not right,” said Sturgeon Lake First Nation Chief Christine Longjohn during a news conference in Saskatoon Tuesday. “The province is targeting the poorest of the poor. The ones that are on social assistance, the ones on disability.”
Tanya Aguilar-Anitman Stone, Chief of the Mosquito Grizzly Bear’s Head Lean Man First Nation said over the past decade, her First Nation has completed negotiations on three Specific Claims, with a fourth in discussions.
She explained it’s unfortunate the government has put a cap without consultation. Aguilar-Anitman Stone suggested this decision is a dictation to how First Nations allocate claims payouts.
The FSIN stated Specific Claims payouts are to atone for historical breeches to Treaty’s.
“Specific claims are court-ordered redress for violations of our Treaties that have negatively impacted the livelihoods and well-being of individual First Nations citizens today. By withholding income assistance payments for those who have already suffered from Canada’s breaches of Treaty, the benefit of redress is reduced in favor of Canada and Saskatchewan. it is shameful and unconscionable that those disproportionately benefited from Treaty are attempting to claw back this court-ordered redress intended to right past wrongs,” said Chief Bobby Cameron.
(Screenshot of FSIN press conference. Courtesy of FSIN Facebook.)