The Trudeau administration has doubled spending on indigenous affairs to $ 24.5 billion annually since taking office in 2015, but an increasing amount of funds is being consumed in legal struggles, according to a new study from the Fraser Institute.
The funding increase “represents a compound annual growth rate of 11.7%, much higher than at any time in Canadian history since World War II,” said author Tom Flanagan in the report: Fiscal Explosion: Federal Spending on Indigenous Programs, 2015-2022.
But his study for the fiscally conservative think tank also found that the settlement of legal disputes between the government and indigenous plaintiffs, including payments to wealthy law firms that specialize in class action lawsuits – it is increasing costs for taxpayers, with spending levels poised to grow even faster in the future.
Flanagan cited a June 2021 report from Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux that noted that “pending legal claims from First Nations and related groups make up the bulk of the $ 24.9 billion in contingent government liabilities ($ 17 , 5 billion or 70%) … total contingent liabilities increased approximately 50% from 2016/17 ($ 8.4 billion), primarily driven by a 65% increase in estimated liabilities associated with specific claims of the First Nations ($ 5.5 billion) and Comprehensive Land Claims ($ 1.5 billion) “.
This year alone, Flanagan reports, Ottawa intends to spend at least $ 3.2 billion to resolve indigenous claims and settlement obligations.
“If Ottawa wants to better control spending on indigenous programs, it should review its approach to settlements, which have increased substantially in recent years,” Flanagan said. “All Canadians should want Ottawa to fund indigenous programs in the most efficient and effective way, so that the money goes to those most in need.”
The money spent on fighting and settling lawsuits, for example, is not spent on delivering drinking water to reserves or providing decent housing.
The Flanagan report said the explosion in legal costs is largely due to the growing number of indigenous class action lawsuits brought against the government since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came to power.
Before that, there was a significant multi-billion dollar class action lawsuit settlement in 2006 for the harm done to indigenous children caused by residential schools.