First Nation chief on P.E.I. backs basic guaranteed income for Mi'kmaq people

Journal Pioneer

Lennox Island First Nation Chief Darlene Bernard supports basic guaranteed income in P.E.I. as a strong means to help lift many – perhaps all – of her people out of poverty.

Bernard estimates 50 to 55 per cent of the approximately 1,500 Mi’kmaq people in the province live below the poverty line.

She said the process of accessing federal funding is an ongoing frustration because, she believes, Ottawa is "culturally biased'' in how it doles out money.

“If I want something from the federal government and you want something from the federal government, I jump through 100 hoops,’’ she told The Guardian. “You might jump through 10.’’

Bernard feels a guaranteed basic income could eliminate that problem for her people “because it is going to be based on income and not on social assistance and all that kind of stuff.’’

She told the Special Committee on Poverty in P.E.I. Thursday that the Lennox Island First Nation and the Abegweit First Nation should play an active role in developing a pilot.

The committee was created in July 2019 to consult with members of the public and community groups across the province. It is mandated to report back to the legislative assembly this year with recommendations to establish clear definitions and measures of poverty and a living wage in the province and to provide fully costed recommendations regarding the creation of a basic income guaranteed pilot for Prince Edward Island.

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