A need for significant infrastructure investments to build a better future for First Nations and Canada.

The Need The last major infrastructure investment to First Nations was in the 1990s, over 25 years ago.

There is over $4.8 billion worth of federally funded assets on First Nations reserves that are rated as in “poor condition” and are a federal liability and in need of either immediate repair or replacement.

The lack of access to vital infrastructure, such as housing, education, healthcare, connectivity, and other essential services, has perpetuated deep-rooted inequality across First Nations communities. This disparity becomes even more apparent when comparing the housing and community infrastructure services consistently available to many Canadians.

Along with Indigenous Services Canada, we co-developed the National Cost Estimate, a report that quantifies the financial investment needed to “Close the Infrastructure Gap by 2030” (CTIG 2030).

This is a crucial and urgent step towards achieving economic reconciliation between First Nations and the Government of Canada.

Closing the Infrastructure Gap Building a better future for First Nations and Canada through infrastructure investments

Investing in Infrastructure

With appropriate and sustained investment in First Nations infrastructure, we expect to see improved socioeconomic outcomes that serve the unique needs of First Nations, including wider access to healthcare, housing, and other social services. This will set the stage for better educational and employment opportunities — leading to a boost in First Nations economic growth.

The majority of First Nations throughout Canada still face an appallingly insufficient water supply. This is a major impediment to economic development; without proper access to water, these communities cannot build the most basic multi-residential or commercial developments since they lack the appropriate infrastructure to provide facility fire sprinkler systems, electricity, or proper sanitary waste management.

Infrastructure for First Nations communities has historically been underfunded. The current project-by-project funding approach responds to needs only as they arise, rather than planning for long-term investment and prosperity — this is a more costly and inefficient use of federal investment. Numerous public commitments to First Nations have not yet been satisfied and change is clearly needed to close this gap.

Cost of Neglect

The Federal Government has a fiduciary responsibility for funding agreements with First Nations. Its primary responsibility is to make investments that will enable more affordable housing, healthcare, education, transportation, telecommunications, water and wastewater, and recreational infrastructure for all First Nations.

The findings of this report have profound implications for the more than 634 First Nations communities in various geographic regions across Canada. Their infrastructure needs — and the investments required to meet them — have been identified in detail.

If sustainable operations and maintenance funding is ignored, infrastructure that First Nation communities across the country depend on will continue to deteriorate at an alarming pace, affecting health, safety, and community with each passing year. And the costs to bring these essential services to First Nations will only increase.

Climate Change Impacts

Climate change will continue to have a major impact on First Nations assets. Flooding, fire, drought, and severe weather collectively present a significant threat to the resilience of First Nation communities. This threat will increase over time, resulting in an escalating potential for the displacement of citizens and disruption to their lives.

Reliable and sustainable funding can change this.

It will enable First Nations to plan, retrofit, and design new assets to adapt to a changing climate. But it’s important to remember that adaptation will bring increased costs to build and maintain resilience across all categories of assets — and the costs to First Nations in more vulnerable and remote locations are likely to be higher due to construction and shipping premiums in these regions. There are currently 67 First Nations reliant on winterized ice roads.

In addition to protecting communities, investment in First Nations climate resiliency will promote the reduction of carbon emissions while boosting economic growth. Closing the Infrastructure Gap by 2030 will elevate Canada’s global profile for leadership in integrating First Nations investment, infrastructure development, climate resilience and economic growth.

Digital Connectivity & Housing

The socioeconomic benefits of access to essential infrastructure services and properly maintained community infrastructure facilities are well documented. Benefits range from employment created by construction and maintenance to improving the quality of life for citizens, supporting local businesses, and connecting local economic activities to other regions and markets.

Numerous First Nations communities face connectivity challenges as many are in rural areas with seasonal roads or a complete lack of road infrastructure. Improved connectivity and trade corridors will enable First Nations to participate in the larger Canadian economy and build long-term economic growth coast to coast to coast. Digital connectivity is also a key infrastructure the government must address; technology such as virtual schooling, online business, and digital healthcare services rely on physical telecommunications infrastructure to function.

Affordable, plentiful, and climate resilient housing; access to clean drinking water; improved educational facilities; connected digital and transportation networks; and sustainable energy sources — these all work together to improve community well-being. Sustainable infrastructure also enables further preservation of First Nation traditions and cultures, strengthening families and communities.

Read the Full Reports

Read the Full Report 1 — The National Cost Estimate

 Read and download the Closing the Infrastructure Gap by 2030 – National Cost Estimate report, which includes the capital and operational investments needed by the Government of Canada to make its timeline to close the gap by 2030.

Read the Full Report 2 — The Prioritization and Implementation Plan

Read and download the Prioritization and Implementation Plan, which includes an estimate on the previous report’s investment needs and quantifies how the First Nations infrastructure gap will continue to grow by the year 2040 due to Government of Canada inaction and insufficient funding.

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