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First Nations infrastructure gap at $349B despite feds’ vow to close it

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OTTAWA — The Assembly of First Nations says decades of underfunding and failed fiduciary duties have created a $349-billion infrastructure gap.

The assembly says the gap desperately needs to be closed and is calling on the federal government for help in doing so.

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The report released Tuesday calls for $135 billion for housing, $5 billion for digital connectivity and another $209 billion for other infrastructure.

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“Without these funds, infrastructure that First Nation communities across the country depend on will continue to deteriorate at an alarming pace,” the report says.

“Without this investment, the health, safety, and community infrastructure of First Nations will be in worse condition with each passing year.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged to close the infrastructure gap by 2030, but the federal auditor general concluded earlier this year that it’s only getting wider.

And the assembly, which advocates on behalf of more than 600 First Nations chiefs, says the cost will balloon if no action is taken now.

Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu, whose department helped pen the report, said Canada is still committed to closing infrastructure gaps in First Nations communities.

“I will say that in order for that to happen, all levels of government … will have to work together,” said Hajdu.

“This is a big, big lift.”

The assembly says investing in First Nations infrastructure will help communities improve their self-determination and socioeconomic outcomes, and reduce the gaps between First Nations and Canadians.

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Ontario regional chief Glen Hare, whose jurisdiction needs $25.8 billion in housing funding, said community members are being forced to live in overcrowded housing because there’s nowhere else for them to go.

“People should never be faced with the harrowing decision to choose between living in overcrowded, unsafe conditions, or leaving their family and community,” Hare said.

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