APTN National News
OTTAWA–Prime Minister Stephen Harper is giving First Nations “the back of his hand” by introducing a program linking welfare payments to job training, says Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair.
The $241 million program, unveiled as part of the Harper government’s 2013 federal budget, would force on-reserve First Nation youth aged between 18 and 24 take job training if they want to receive welfare payments. First Nation bands can only access the program funding if they agree to enforce the link.
“At a time when First Nations are holding out a hand for reconciliation, he’s giving them the back of his hand,” said Mulcair.”It’s insulting, it’s paternalistic and they’re the only ones who are getting this kind of proposal.”
Only $109 million of the total will be used for actual “personalized job training,” while the remaining, larger portion of $132 million will go toward the administration of the program.
First Nations leaders agreeing to take part in the funding program will also have to follow the rules set out by their particular provinces that run these so-called incentive programs.
Conservative Manitoba MP Shelly Glover, the parliamentary secretary for finance, said First Nations people were asking for this type of program.
“Folks do not want a welfare cheque, they want a job, they want to be able to have the skills to be employed in different jobs so they can support their families,” said Glover, during a live debate on APTN National News’ political panel which aired Thursday evening.
“That is why we are offering to provide the skills training to ensure they do in fact rise up out of that situation.”
Liberal Aboriginal affairs critic Carolyn Bennett shot back at Glover saying, “no one asked for workfare Shelly.”
Glover, who is part of the Conservative party’s Aboriginal caucus, responded saying, “You don’t listen.”
Bennett said the Harper government should have concentrated funding on improving K to 12 education.
“When only a third of young people are finishing high school we would rather they didn’t end up on social assistance,” said Bennett. “The way you end up with them not on social assistance is to make sure they are successful in elementary and high school.”
NDP Aboriginal Affairs critic Jean Crowder called the announced program a “bombshell” that showed the Conservative government was not interested in building its relationship with First Nations people.
“If this is the prime minister’s idea of resetting the relationship, this is a dismal failure,” said Crowder.
Glover, however, said Crowder was wrong.
“Of course they consulted,” she said.