OTTAWA — The feds spend more than $10.5 billion annually on Canadian aboriginal communities, according to a new study from the conservative Fraser Institute.
Study author Mark Milke said he believes that should put to rest any notion that the grinding poverty on aboriginal reserves is because they've been shortchanged by Canadian taxpayers.
"I think some aboriginal leaders on aboriginal reserves might be shortchanging some aboriginal people," Milke told Sun News Network on Tuesday.
The study found Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada spent $9,056 per aboriginal person in 2011 — an almost tenfold increase compared to 1949.
"What we find is a continual upward trajectory of spending on aboriginals in Canada...compared to other program spending by governments," Milke said. "So the question is really what's being done with the money? That would take another suite of studies. I mean, you'd have to go almost through reserve by reserve to find out if the money is being spent as it should."
Health Canada, meanwhile, spent more than $2,600 per aboriginal person on various programs, including benefits like vision and dental care that most Canadians pay for out of pocket or through private insurance plans.
The feds also drop $242 million annually into on-reserve housing.
Provincial governments, Milke says, spend another $711 million every year on their own aboriginal programs.
Milke said part of the problem in helping aboriginal reserves climb out of poverty is that they're in bleak, remote parts of the country.
"They're only sustainable because of government transfers, and even that money is not properly accounted for," Milke said.