Quebec announces five-year social and cultural funding plan for First Nations and Inuit

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The Quebec government revealed its plan to improve relations with Indigenous communities in the province last week, committing $147.3 million for more than 100 measures to enhance services, promote Indigenous cultures and languages, and to foster collaboration and research.

The June 28 announcement of the Government Action Plan for the Social and Cultural Development of the First Nations and Inuit included a separate $135 million Aboriginal Initiatives Fund (AIF) III and the creation of a panel for the educational success of Indigenous students. Proclaimed as a “concrete commitment to Indigenous nations,” the plan of action and the AIF III are both results of the ongoing provincial inquiry and consultations with First Nations leadership.

“This initial action plan is a concrete commitment by our government to Quebec’s Indigenous nations,” said Premier Philippe Couillard in a press release. “We wish to give them all of the tools possible to ensure that they continue to be dynamic, involved, creative, innovative communities.”

The Nation spoke to Quebec Native Affairs Minister Geoffrey Kelley to break down what the plan of actions means to Eeyou Istchee and other First Nations in Quebec.

“One of the things that we heard over and over again in all of our consultations with the First Nations and Inuit was the importance of protecting language and culture,” Kelley said. “We want to make a statement about the importance of Indigenous languages in Quebec and Quebec’s willingness to work with the people of Eeyou Istchee [and First Nations across the province] to do that.”

Kelley also mentioned a focus on preparing and equipping Indigenous people to better adapt to urban environments, and the importance of addressing violence against Indigenous women.

“We’re aware of the many social issues,” he said. “There will be new measures introduced by my colleagues to address things like conjugal violence and the difficulties First Nations face when they find themselves in towns and cities across Quebec.”

Noting that while some who move to urban environments have a good game plan, others “aren’t always as well prepared.” So Kelley is also promising increased funding for Native Friendship Centres in Val-d’Or, Senneterre, Chibougamau and Montreal.

“[The Friendship Centre] becomes a reference point, a place for First Nations people to go for a warm cup of coffee and advice on housing and finding a job. The announcement today will help us strengthen that network,” he said.

“More and more people from First Nations are spending time in urban areas. People who come into town need help, need those reference points to find housing and find work and other services. We need to work together with First Nations and Inuit leadership to make sure that this happens.”


Kelley noted that while the action plan is big news for the Cree, the seven allocations outlined in the latest AIF are already covered in the Paix des Braves.

“The action plan is a first for Quebec,” he said, “but the Aboriginal Initiative Fund is a little less relevant to the Cree as it’s something already in place through the Paix des Braves. It means $135 million in funding for infrastructure and for First Nations that don’t have their own modern treaty. Quebec will be involved in their economic development.”

The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador welcomed the announcement, noting in a press release that this is the first major initiative undertaken by the provincial government toward First Nations since the Socioeconomic Forum of Mashteuiatsh 10 years ago.

However, AFNQL Chief Ghislain Picard said the Couillard Government needed to put the plan in context in order to reach lasting results in social and cultural development.

“All the good intentions of the provincial government towards the social development of our First Nations will never prevent it from having to recognize and respect the Aboriginal and Treaty Rights and Titles over the territories they never ceded,” said Picard. “The primary and fundamental condition of the socioeconomic development of people is, above all, the access to its territory and its resources. There cannot be a real reconciliation without this unavoidable recognition.”


Kelley emphasized the importance of coordination, consultation and teamwork between Quebec’s government institutions, Indigenous leaders and community organizations. He also noted the need to understand the unique situations of each First Nations and Inuit community in Quebec.

“For example, dealing with violence against women, we need better education for prevention, social services like women’s shelters that give women better protection, a justice system that is sensitive to the needs and concerns of vulnerable women and if the police have to get involved then the public security system is there as well. We have to make sure that the left hand knows that the right hand is doing, both within the government and in partnership with First Nations,” Kelley said.

“There are different Native realities in Quebec,” he continued. “To be a Cree in Mistissini is very different to being an Innu in Pakwashipi and a Mohawk in Kahnawake. We need to remind Quebec how young our First Nations communities are and work to provide a better future for these young people. Half of the Native population in Quebec is under 30. That’s a job for Native leadership, the government and private sector, everybody has to work together on that.”

Though only time will tell how successful the new funding and announced measures will be, Kelley assured the Nation that Quebec will make good on its promises.

“There’s going to be a follow-up committee,” he said. “We’re going to make sure that what’s on paper becomes reality.”

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