Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus is in Ottawa this week, ironing out details in funding from the recent federal budget.

The 2017 federal budget was tabled in the House of Commons last week. In it was included $3.4 billion over 5 years to meet “critical” Indigenous needs, including infrastructure, education, and health.

What Erasmus is most excited about is the governments’ over $83 million commitment to integrating traditional Indigenous knowledge into legislature and building a better understanding of climate change.

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“What it means is that Canada recognizes that we have our own methods of doing business and we have our own ways of complimenting what our people think and the way that they operate,” Erasmus told Moose FM.

According to the budget, $83.5 million will go to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada over five years.

This will help them begin work to “integrate traditional Indigenous knowledge to build a better understanding of climate change and to guide adaptation measures.”

The money will also go towards enhancing Indigenous community resilience in communities with growing flooding risks. Resilience in the North specifically will be tackled by making improvements to infrastructure.

‘Whole new approach to things’

This consultation will help Indigenous people get their views across, Erasmus says, and make sure that new legislation passed reflects that.

For example, the federal government is looking to make amendments to Canada’s Fisheries Act. Now, Indigenous leaders will be consulted.

“What it would mean is they now include traditional knowledge in fisheries, which means they have to acquire our opinions and get our information,” Erasmus explained.

“That’s huge. It’s a whole new approach to things and people are happy with that.”

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That’s just one example. Indigenous voices will also be heard to build a better understanding of climate change, and will be consulted on infrastructure planning in the North.

Finer details of the budget are still being worked out, but for now Erasmus says this is a huge step forward for Canada.

“It means Canada is getting serious about dealing with our issues and recognizing the way that we function,” he said.

“It brings in recognition of our own authorities, which really is a complimentary way of doing business.”