New Brunswick—Social AssistancePublished on 13 May 2015 Hansard and Statements by Senator Lillian Eva Dyck
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck:
Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Minister Valcourt, has said that the federal government will cut welfare rates for New Brunswick’s 15 First Nations.
With this cut, for example, a family of four on social assistance in the Eel Ground First Nation will go from getting $1,262 a month to merely $908 a month. A single person would see a drop from $828 a month to only $537. Those are about one-third cuts, or a 30 per cent to 35 per cent cut in welfare rates.
This cut is so egregious it will make it nearly impossible to make ends meet for those First Nations who are dependent on social assistance in New Brunswick and these cuts will effectively put them below the poverty line.
The response of the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs to this dire situation is that he thinks the First Nations’ welfare system is “geared so as to encourage passiveness.” He believes these cuts will push First Nations off welfare and he wants to direct the savings from these cuts to training and skills programs for Aboriginal people in New Brunswick.
Honourable senators, I would remind you that this cut would hit amongst the poorest of the poor in the country, where unemployment and illiteracy rates are substantially higher than in the rest of Canada.
Therefore, my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate is: Does the government honestly think that by cutting welfare funding to First Nations in New Brunswick, cutting the money that provides for the bare essentials to sustain life, these Canadians, who can no longer afford a roof over their heads or put food on their tables, are going to be able to study and participate in these training programs under such dire circumstances?