Skip to main content

Saskatoon symposium seeks solutions to challenges faced in remote communities

The first-ever symposium of the National Assembly of Remote Communities (NARC), a coalition between the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) and Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN), is happening in Saskatoon starting on Tuesday.

“Many of our problems across the remote communities are very unique, and they require unique solutions,” said NARC co-chair and NAN deputy grand chief Bobby Narcisse.

“Where should they come from? They should be coming from the communities themselves. The solution should be community-based.”

NARC co-chair and FSIN Vice-Chief David Pratt says the need for NARC stemmed from what he perceived to be a lack of funding for northern communities in the federal government’s long-term reform compensation package, particularly in the area of child welfare.

“I visited those northern communities myself and seen firsthand, you've got anywhere from 18 to 22 people living in one house. I visited one house and there were beds all over the floor, one bathroom, you have about 10 to 12 kids in there all lined up in the morning to use the restroom,” said Pratt.

“Our hope is that we can use this organization to stand united for our northern and remote communities, but also to push for good substantive funding.”

Pratt says it’s not fair that northern communities — where the cost of a gallon of milk can reach up to $17 — receive the same amount of funding as southern communities.

“Sometimes a lot of our people in the north would rather be on income assistance than work because the jobs working in the community pay $2,000,” he said.

“Sometimes their hydro bill is $2,000 to $3,000 in one month. Where's the motivation? I wouldn't want to spend my whole life working for SaskPower, would you?”

The three-day symposium will be spent discussing the challenges that northern communities face, best practices and safeguards of funding, and the science of measuring remoteness.

“If you understand the challenges remote communities face around youth suicide, around drug issues, you'll appreciate a huge inflow of money this way has a whole line of complexities, and sovereignty of individuals, dignity of adult choices, these things matter,” said Julian Falconer, legal counsel for NARC.

Falconer says Canada doesn’t index the cost of remoteness.

“The fact that food can cost twice as much doesn't play a role in funding issues. The fact that creating a building can cost three times as much and take four times as long because you can only use ice roads doesn't factor into funding,” he said.

“We used experts to measure what is remoteness cost, and those experts formed a team. It's called the remoteness quotient team for NAN, and then Canada formed a team, and now they're working together and they're going to be presenting the science on the third day.”

Pratt says dealing specifically with child welfare in this symposium will hopefully provide a pathway to improve all aspects of living in northern and remote communities.

“We can gather the work here over the next two or three days, get some good input feedback from our leadership, our elders and our youth, and then take that and serve as a template to address all the other areas of funding, whether it's education, justice, and health.” Top Stories

Stay Connected