Fraser Forum

First Nations funding in Canada—four streams with substantial growth

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A recent op-ed cited the “myth of underfunding” of First Nations communities in Canada. Whatever your opinion on the issue, the facts are clear. Consider the four streams of revenue that flow to First Nations across the country.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC)

Total spending by the INAC, a federal department, on Canada’s aboriginal peoples rose from $82 million annually in 1946/47 to more than $7.9 billion in 2013/14 (all numbers are inflation-adjusted to 2015). On a per capita basis, INAC spending grew from $939 per registered First Nation individual in 1949/50 to $8,578 in 2013/14—an in-crease of 814 per cent. In comparison, total federal program spending per capita, on all Canadians, rose by 376 per person, from $1,532 in 1949/50 to $7,295 in 2013/14.

Health Canada

Health Canada spending on First Nations/Inuit health care jumped from just under $1.4 billion in 1994/95 to $2.6 billion in 2013/14. On a per capita basis, spending rose from $2,358 in 1994/95 to $2,823 in 2013/14. Included in the $2.6 billion for 2013/14 is the $1 billion cost of supplementary health-care benefits for 808,686 First Nation and Inuit people, the Non-Insured Health Benefits Program, which delivers health-care benefits that other Canadians normally receive from an employee benefit package, private insurer or by paying out-of-pocket. Program costs in 2013/14 included vision care ($31.5 million), dental care ($207.2 million), medical transportation ($352.0 million) and pharmaceuticals ($416.2 million).

Provincial governments

Adjusted for inflation, total annual provincial spending on Aboriginals rose from $43 million in 1993/94 to $946 million by 2013/14. The provinces spent $77 per registered First Nations person in 1993/94 compared with $1,028 in 2013/14, an increase of 1,235 per cent. In comparison, provincial spending per capita, on all Canadians in the provinces, rose from $7,672 in 1993/94 to $10,059 in 2013/14—an increase of 31 per cent.

Own-source revenue

In total, First Nations communities in Canada generated more than $3.3 billion in claimed own-source revenue (natural resource revenue, casino revenue, user fees for services, etc.). Alberta First Nations generated the highest levels of own-source revenue—more than $711 million including $122 natural resource revenue.

This analysis reveals that spending on Canada’s aboriginal population has risen substantially. And many First Nations communities in Canada are generating own-source revenue that surpasses their government transfers.


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