The Conservative government is defending its further planned cuts to the Aboriginal Affairs budget. On June 9, many Aboriginal advocacy groups were shocked to learn that their funding has been cut within the latest rounds of austerity measures pushed forward by the Harper government.

Responding to the criticism, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt shifted the focus towards education. “It is my sincere, profound belief that the greatest legacy that we can leave to First Nations in Canada is an education system that will give those young Native people the chance to get the education they need,” Valcourt said.

But critics have pointed out that the problems in education have come from a lack of funding and will only be exacerbated by the looming cuts. Valcourt stated, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, that First Nations receive education funding from the federal government at the same level as funding provided by the provinces. Still, Valcourt admitted that more reform and better consultation are needed to ensure that funding is spread across the regions equally.

Valcourt also stated that the government’s approach is being taken in order to help First Nations break free of the Indian Act. “We will not get rid of this Indian Act overnight, this is impossible. We’re going to go incrementally,” he said.