The Liard First Nation is handing responsibility for its income assistance program back to the federal government, saying it’s frustrated with the way the program is run.
“It’s basically because we don’t agree with how they administer their policies. We don’t feel that the program is fair and just. It does a disservice to our community,” said Chief Liard McMillan.
He said his government has been administering the income assistance basic needs program, which is paid for by the federal government’s department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, but they aren’t getting enough money to do it.
He said his staff makes only $20 an hour to administer the program, while federal staffers would earn $30 to do the same work with less stress.
“We get less than five per cent administration fees to run a $2-million-a-year program. Our frontline workers are underpaid. They’re in a burn-out position. We feel that we’re left with few options in terms of getting the federal government to open their eyes and smell the coffee,” he said.
“To us, it’s becoming a human rights issue, particularly with the winter months coming. People are going to be forced to choose between heating their homes and putting food on the table.”
The First Nation has set a deadline of 30 days for the transfer, but McMillan couldn’t say what the potential impact on First Nation citizens might be.
The Department of Aboriginal Affairs wouldn’t comment on the situation, other than to say in a statement that “we are looking into this matter and will work with the First Nation to minimize any impact this issue may have on the delivery of this program.”