(OTTAWA) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde today called for immediate action to close the gap in the quality of life between First Nations people and Canada, in a pre-budget address to the Economic Club.

“The Gap in the quality of life between First Nations and Canada is intolerable and it cannot go on,” said National Chief Bellegarde in a press release.

“We know the country is facing difficult economic times, but let’s remember that First Nations were left out in the good times,” said National Chief Bellegarde.

“We can’t keep treating First Nations like second class citizens, living in third world conditions,” he added.

“There is an immediate need to invest in the youngest, fastest growing population in Canada – First Nations peoples – and an historic opportunity to begin a new era of reconciliation with the upcoming federal budget. Now is the time for the government to invest in closing the gap between First Nations and Canada.”

The AFN put forth a plan based on investments for for the upcoming federal budget to build up First Nations communities. The key areas for investment include education, health, housing, water and capital infrastructure, child and family services, environmental stewardship, economic development and social development.  The plan also proposes that the 2% cap on funding increases for First Nations be replaced by a new fiscal framework based on fairness, sustainability and predictability.  Chief Bellegarde said that investments are important, but action to honour and implement First Nations rights must be part of the agenda to ensure strong First Nations and a stronger Canada.

“Moving forward in partnership will build a stronger country for all of us.  We will succeed when we work together,” he said.

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