Healthy, vibrant communities need consistent access to energy, sanitation and clean water, as well as reliable transportation and communication. Governments invest in infrastructure to create lasting economic, social and environmental benefits for its citizens. In turn, citizens contribute to the growth, progress and innovation of their communities.
Many First Nation communities are built with substandard, and in some cases, non-existent infrastructure. The lack of basic needs, at worst, puts the health and safety of the community at risk. At best, it hinders the ability of the community to thrive and prosper.
While funding is available for infrastructure projects, it is limited and layers of bureaucracy and planning gaps often lead to delays in projects. As a result, First Nation infrastructure takes longer to build, costs more to build and does not last as long as municipal government infrastructure. It is not designed to be economically or fiscally sustainable and as result has much lower environmental and health outcomes.
A number of federal programs and initiatives have been developed to address these symptomatic gaps. For example, in the last two budgets, the federal government has substantially increased indigenous infrastructure funding and support. These additional federal resources and efforts are welcome and necessary. They will certainly provide short term improvements to some community infrastructure.
However, unless this additional revenue is supported by a comprehensive proposal to deal with the root causes of the infrastructure gaps – indigenous infrastructure ownership and jurisdiction – it is unlikely that this improved indigenous infrastructure will be fiscally, environmentally, or economically sustainable.
First Nations require an option to close these gaps and implement and protect their infrastructure jurisdiction. The First Nations Fiscal Management Act (FMA) and institutions provide a successful model to address some of these infrastructure challenges and implement jurisdiction.
Almost 230 First Nations are part of the FMA because it closes many infrastructure financing gaps and supports and protects their jurisdiction. The FMA institutions and proponents are proposing the creation of FNII as an additional FMA institution to implement and protect infrastructure jurisdiction for interested First Nations.
FNII will build on the successful framework used by the FMA institutions to help interested First Nations build more sustainable infrastructure faster.
The development of the FNII proposal is guided by the following principles:
First Nation led
The conception and design of the FNII has been and will continue to be guided, directed and controlled by First Nations. The FNII will be a First Nations-led institution that will be accountable to participating First Nations.
FNII will be optional and respect the right of self-determination. Interested First Nations would opt into FNII services as with the FMA opt-in framework.
FNII will be a national institution with offices across Canada. As a national institution, FNII will work with proponent communities to develop standards and procedures to ensure consistent service quality and efficiency across all regions. A national FNII is necessary to help implement and support infrastructure jurisdiction and move beyond working with INAC for interested First Nations. A national FNII in the FMA can help interested First Nations secure long-term stable infrastructure transfers.
FNII will focus on implementing infrastructure jurisdiction and supporting infrastructure and housing projects that increase economic development and independent revenues and raise environmental sustainability for interested First Nations. FNII will work with and support existing and new First Nation infrastructure institutions (local, regional, or national) and other possible partners that can help participating First Nations build more sustainable infrastructure.
FNII will be an FMA institution
FNII will help participating First Nations assume jurisdiction over the full infrastructure lifecycle – planning, design, financing, construction, operation, maintenance and replacement. Like the other FMA institutions, it will provide standards, sample laws, training and templates to lower the costs and time of infrastructure. FNII will support those First Nations already in the FMA by helping them build and maintain infrastructure that grows their economies and revenues, faster and more cost effectively. It will help First Nations interested in joining the FMA by helping them access long term financing to build necessary infrastructure sooner and at a better price.
The FMA institutions and proponent First Nations are currently working to advance this initiative, sharing information and discussing the issues with interested First Nations, and seeking support from more potential proponents to help make FNII a reality.