Frequently Asked Questions - A New Approach to Fiscal Arrangements for Aboriginal Self-Government

Why is the Government of Canada changing its approach to funding self-government?

The Government of Canada is committed to working with all partners to strengthen its approach to the implementation of treaties and self-government agreements across Canada.

The new approach will help to ensure the benefits of self-government are fully realized by bringing greater consistency, timeliness, transparency and fairness to the process of implementing fiscal arrangements with self-governing Aboriginal groups.

Who will the new approach apply to?

The new approach will apply to self-governing Aboriginal groups and those who are engaged in negotiating self-government. It does not apply to funding arrangements with First Nations operating under the Indian Act.

What types of features will the new approach include?

While the work on a new approach is in its early stages, general features of the new approach will include:

  • a published federal policy clearly articulating the parameters for Canada's fiscal support of self-governing Aboriginal groups;
  • a formula-based funding model to calculate the level of federal transfers needed to support Aboriginal government programs, taking into account each Aboriginal government's ability to contribute to funding of these programs from its own revenues;
  • an ongoing technical, advisory process for officials from Aboriginal governments, provinces, territories and Canada to discuss the operation of the new approach;
  • measures to ensure that the differing circumstances of Aboriginal groups are taken into account in the implementation of these arrangements; and
  • accountability provisions to ensure financing arrangements are open and transparent.

Is Canada proposing this as a way to cut costs? How will Aboriginal groups be able to ensure enough funding if they can't negotiate directly with Canada?

This initiative is about ensuring that the process for determining funding levels is manageable and cost effective for all parties. We expect that it will reduce the time and money all parties spend on renewing funding agreements. This initiative is not designed to reduce or increase program funding.

In addition, we believe that a formula-based funding approach will make transparent whether Aboriginal governments are treated consistently, and the establishment of a common forum will allow for more effective discussions about federal funding policy.

How will negotiations between Canada and Aboriginal groups in treaty negotiations or between Canada and Aboriginal self-governments be affected while the new approach is being developed?

During the development of the new approach, treaty and self-government negotiations will continue. Federal negotiators will seek to ensure that agreements are compatible with the new approach. However, it is anticipated that the current negotiation approach will be in place for agreements concluded in the near term.

How will the new approach affect Aboriginal groups who already have treaties or self-government agreements? Will Canada "reopen" the agreements?

Canada intends to honour existing agreements, which provide for regular negotiation of fiscal renewals. However, Canada will seek to explore with Aboriginal governments opportunities to incorporate the new approach into existing agreements.

How long will it be before a new approach is in place?

The development of this new funding approach will take time. An important part of the engagement process is ensuring that interested parties are aware of developments and opportunities to provide comment and feedback. The Department is keeping the lines of communications open with Aboriginal groups in negotiations, self-governing Aboriginal groups, and other interested parties.

Engagement Process:

Why did AANDC launch this engagement process?

AANDC is committed to engaging with Aboriginal governments and groups negotiating self-government, as well as provincial and territorial governments, to discuss the new federal approach and seek feedback.

How have Aboriginal groups been involved in the engagement sessions?

These engagement meetings provided an opportunity for a discussion of the issues and principles that should guide fiscal arrangements and AANDC proposals for a new approach, both from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada's perspective and the perspective of Aboriginal groups.

Two rounds of engagement were completed, the first one in spring 2011 and the second in spring 2012. Round One focused on issues and principles and Round Two focused on the federal proposal put forward by AANDC in a discussion paper. More than 150 participants representing Aboriginal governments, negotiating groups, provinces, and territories attended these meetings to discuss the new approach.

Will the discussions include funding levels for self-government? If not, why not?

The changes proposed by AANDC to the current approach to fiscal arrangements are not intended to change program funding levels. Rather, this initiative is intended to change the framework through which governments determine funding amounts and to provide a more consistent and transparent approach. Aboriginal governments would be able to see directly the calculation of total funding amounts, to understand the basis for funding and ensure that they are being treated consistently with other recipient governments. Moreover, the new approach would likely provide for an ongoing forum for collective discussions on fiscal matters between Canada and Aboriginal governments.

When will Aboriginal governments and groups have another opportunity to discuss these matters with Canada?

With engagement sessions completed, federal officials are reviewing the feedback received during the engagement meetings. Officials will conduct further analysis of the key elements of the proposed new approach to inform decisions on whether, how and when to proceed.

Once decisions on whether and how to proceed have been made, the proposed advisory forum could potentially be established as a first step. The advisory forum would provide the key venue for discussions of the many detailed elements in the new approach. In addition, Canada has committed to meet separately with existing signatories to explore how a new approach can be reconciled with existing agreements.