Cuts coming to MLTC

by Derek Cornet

Finances at Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC) will take a hit when federal dollars disappear at the start of the next fiscal year.

In April, MLTC’s budget will shrink to about $800,000 from its current level of $1.3 million, which echoes recent cuts announced at the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN). Tribal council vice-chief Dwayne Lasas said, while decisions are yet to be made by leadership, MLTC will be forced to downsize to reflect the changes in funding.

“It does hurt because there are a lot of people on staff who we value,” he said. “We’ve also always relied on consultants and that money is gone.”

Lasas said programming within the organization will remain untouched, as the cuts are happening in areas such as governance. But, ultimately, it means MLTC will struggle to maintain the level of efficiency it has in the past. Lasas added the cuts mirror the current situation at other tribal councils and organizations across Canada.

With regard to FSIN, Lasas said the tribal council won’t feel the effects of reduced funding at the federation much. Recently, FSIN was forced to send layoff notices to 66 staff informing them they may not have a job after March 31. The organization’s current budget of $1.6 million will plummet to $500,000 in the upcoming fiscal year.

Lasas and tribal chief Eric Sylvestre are active within the organization and currently sit on FSIN’s treasury board and financial audit committee.

“Our backs will be up against the wall, but we’ll still have a voice,” he said. “Our treaties are important to us and we will continue to follow our mandate to have those treaties honoured.”

Waterhen Lake First Nation chief Carol Bernard said her band and the FSIN do have a working relationship, but it’s at arms-length. Bernard attends quarterly meetings with the FSIN and said the organization largely hears concerns from bands at a provincial level then reports the findings to the Assembly of First Nations – the national aboriginal group aimed at protecting and advancing treaty rights.

“FSIN does provide support through some of our programs, so we’ll feel an impact for sure,” Bernard said.

Meanwhile, the federal government has announced a $3.2 million investment into on-reserve job training for four Saskatchewan tribal councils including MLTC. Lasas said the money will go into training employees at NorSask Forest Products and prepare others for jobs when construction starts at its $150 million biomass project later this year.

“We’re getting the money because we have a lot on the go right now,” Lasas said.

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