Archived - The National Child Benefit Progress Report 2004

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Chapter 4
First Nations and the National Child Benefit Initiative

There are more than 600 First Nations in Canada with diverse traditions, expectations, needs, opportunities and community types (urban, rural, reserve and isolated communities); and they have the youngest, fastest growing segment of the population. First Nations people continue to experience social and economic disparity when compared to other Canadians. The First Nations NCB reinvestment component is one way that the Government of Canada is addressing this disparity and providing opportunities to First Nations to meet community priorities. Through the First Nations NCB reinvestment component, the Government of Canada and First Nations are working together to realize the shared goal of improving the quality of life for First Nations people and especially children. The services and benefits generated from reinvestment projects are aimed at ensuring that First Nations children receive the best possible opportunity to fully develop their potential as healthy, active and contributing members of their communities and Canadian society at large.

This chapter outlines how First Nations and the federal government are working together to address the needs of low-income families with children on reserve through the First Nations NCB reinvestment component. First, it explains how First Nations implement NCB reinvestments, including the types of activity areas in which reinvestments occur. Secondly, it sets out how the progress of the First Nations NCB reinvestment component is being monitored. Thirdly, it outlines the next steps for the First Nations NCB reinvestment component.

Each First Nation plays a vital role in the implementation of the NCB, as it designs and administers its own reinvestment projects. Like provincial and territorial governments, First Nations that deliver income assistance have the flexibility to reinvest savings from adjustments to income assistance into programs and services which take into account their diversity, and are tailored to meet the specific needs and priorities of their individual community. This flexibility is an important feature of the First Nations NCB reinvestment component, as it allows First Nations to implement projects that are culturally relevant and responsive to the unique needs of each community, and that aim to reduce the incidence and depth and contribute to alleviate the effects of child poverty.

First Nations tailor their reinvestments to meet the needs and priorities of their individual communities, provided that the activities undertaken are consistent with the goals of the NCB. The projects implemented by First Nations vary from community to community, and tend to cover a wider range of program areas than those in provinces and territories.

NCB reinvestment projects for First Nations are categorized in five broad activity areas: child/day care; child nutrition; early childhood development; employment opportunities/training programs; and community enrichment. A description of each activity can be found in Appendix 2.

Table 10 shows the total First Nations NCB reinvestment and investment envelope since the program was implemented in 1998.

Table 10
First Nations: NCB Reinvestments and Investments

Year Total ($ millions)
1998-1999 30.5
1999-2000 50.2
2000-2001 54.3
2001-2002 57.0
2002-2003 56.0
2003-2004 (estimate) 53.2
2004-2005 (estimate) 52.5

Table 11 - outlines the First Nations reinvestments and investments by region from 2001-2002 through to 2004-2005. The amounts for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 are estimates.

Region 2001-2002 Expenditures ($000) 2002-2003 Expenditures ($000) 2003-2004 Estimates ($000) 2004-2005 Estimates ($000)
Yukon 341 489 439 605
British Columbia 4,174 5,973 6,269 6,948
Alberta 8,566 9,757 10,174 10,572
Saskatchewan 15,392 16,851 18,815 21,269
Manitoba* 5,322 3,209 1,764 0
Ontario 7,355 8,118 7,344 6,664
Quebec 8,540 8,161 6,202 3,344
Atlantic 1,549 991 757 757
SUB-TOTAL 51,239 53,549 51,763 50,158
Additional Investment Envelope** 5,763 2,439 1,414 2,379
TOTAL 57,001 55,988 53,177 52,537

* Effective January 2004, Manitoba fully discontinued the practice of recovering the NCB Supplement from families receiving income assistance, including First Nations families. As a result of flowing through the NCB Supplement to families, funds are no longer being recovered for reinvestment.

** The additional investment envelope includes funding to reimburse Saskatchewan and the Yukon for the portion of provincial/territorial children's benefits paid on reserve.

Note: Totals may not add due to rounding.

Monitoring Progress—Evaluating the First Nations NCB Component

The monitoring of progress of the NCB with First Nations has focused on three activities:

  • NCB Reinvestment Initiative — National Manual;
  • a review of First Nation NCB activities in First Nation communities; and
  • workshops on the elaboration of a Proposal Development and Reporting Guide.

National Child Benefit Reinvestment Initiative—National Manual

This program manual was developed to provide further direction to Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) regional program officials and First Nation NCB Administrators on how the terms and conditions of the program should be interpreted and implemented. The national manual is an ongoing document and will be updated from time to time. The latest version is available on the INAC NCB web site www.ainc-inac.gc.ca.

Review of Activities in First Nation Communities

The objective of the review was to identify program activities in First Nation communities, and short-term outcomes which would provide practical information about the NCB initiative in support of furthering the development of a formal evaluation of the First Nations NCB reinvestment component in the near future.

A comprehensive list of review issues was developed using a preliminary statement of process and policy questions, which were further refined into ones that could be addressed through interviews with First Nation NCB Administrators, as the methodology employed for this project. A structured interview guide was then designed for interviews with First Nation NCB Administrators in First Nation communities. Thirty-seven interviews were conducted with NCB Administrators in Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and the Yukon. Findings indicated that:

  • the level of satisfaction is high with meeting project objectives and results;
  • reducing child poverty is the overall priority;
  • children and youth are a priority in virtually all communities that participated in the review;
  • most communities blend NCB reinvestment projects with other programs to serve a greater number of clients;
  • First Nation NCB Administrators lack networking opportunities to share information on projects; and
  • even though the NCB is being perceived as flexible, First Nations would like to have a broader range of activities in which to reinvest, in order to better respond to their needs (e.g. clothing, recreation activities).

Proposal Development and Reporting Guide

INAC resolved to develop a resource guide to assist First Nations NCB Administrators with the proposal process for approval of reinvestment projects. First Nation NCB administrators were invited to come together and develop a guide to help First Nation communities who have limited proposal development expertise or supporting resources. In a series of two workshops, a sample guide was presented through a structured review process to test it, and critique its content and format. First Nation participants used their own expertise to develop a tool which is user-friendly, simple and straightforward. The First Nations NCB Reinvestment Initiative — Proposal Development and Reporting Guide sets out:

  • the steps involved in developing a proposal, including accessing funding, roles and responsibilities, writing the proposal, a proposal checklist, submitting the proposal, and a proposal template;
  • reporting requirements, including time frames for reporting and the First Nations' NCB annual report on reinvestment; and
  • background information on the NCB initiative.

An electronic version of the guide may be found on INAC's NCB website: www.ainc-inac.gc.ca

The NCB management framework, detailed in the National Child Benefit Reinvestment Initiative — National Manual, requires that local reinvestment initiatives be consistent with the federal/provincial/territorial objectives of the program. Before entering into any funding agreements, INAC ensures that all required accountability provisions are included in the agreements so that the transferred funds are used effectively.

Current information on activities and outputs is obtained by ongoing monitoring. Feedback from First Nations on innovations, challenges and other aspects of reinvestment programs is an important part of the program management process.

Conclusion

By providing benefits and services that help low-income families with children to share more fully in the life of their community, and Canadian society at large, First Nations are furthering the goals of the National Child Benefit. Services funded under the First Nations NCB component initiative have made it possible for many communities to reduce the incidence and depth and contribute to alleviate the effects of child poverty and to support, encourage and promote attachment of families to the work force. Furthermore, a sense of cultural pride and individual self-esteem has been fostered by community enrichment activities such as raising awareness of the social, economic and cultural traditions and values of the community.

The adaptability of the NCB initiative offers First Nations wide-ranging opportunities to prioritize, develop, and deliver services specifically designed to help low-income families and their children. As long as funded projects and services are in line with NCB objectives, First Nations are able to direct their efforts to particular activities based on their own needs. It is largely due to the scope and flexibility of the NCB that First Nations have been able to use reinvestment funds for many different kinds of projects and services, as shown in Tables 10 and 11.

First Nations are expected to continue to build on and share their experiences and knowledge about this unique means for funding social, health, and related services in their communities.

The Government of Canada continues to work in partnership with First Nations to achieve the shared goal of improving the quality of life for Aboriginal peoples. The benefits gained by low-income parents and their children in First Nations communities across the country through the NCB are a significant result of this shared effort.

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