ABORIGINAL COMMUNITY TO MARCH IN VANCOUVER ON NATIONAL ABORIGINAL DAY TO PROTEST SURPRISE FEDERAL CUTS TO ABORIGINAL YOUTH PROGRAM FUNDING
This is very sad news, for both the Aboriginal community and for myself as I am about to embark on a new career working with Aboriginal families who will be deeply, deeply affected by these cuts. I won’t be able to make it out tomorrow to march, but I wholly support my brothers and sisters that do.
The March will begins at 11:00am tomorrow (June 21st, 2012) at the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre at 1607 East Hastings Street and will travel south along Commercial Drive to East 15th Avenue, and then eastward to Trout Lake.
On a day that is meant to recognize the unique history, culture, and contributions of Aboriginal people to Canada, the Metro Vancouver Aboriginal community will be marching to protest cuts to the federal Cultural Connections for Aboriginal Youth (CCAY) funding by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. The announcement was made more devastating when the surprise notice was delivered the day after the 4th anniversary of Canada’s apology to residential school survivors, and only one week before the federal government’s announcement that $28 million will be spent to reenact the War of 1812. (The total annual budget for the CCAY program is only $22 million nationally - $6 million less than what is being earmarked for the celebration of a war that happened 200 years ago). Total yearly funding for Metro Vancouver’s 14 programs was $1.37 million.
Co-Chair of the Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Executive Council (MVAEC), Christine Smith, says that this devastating decision will have far-reaching negative social impacts across Metro Vancouver and the entire country, as hundreds of projects and programs are being immediately shut down due to the surprise and late notice of the federal government. This will lead to higher social costs for the federal and provincial federal governments as youth will have 14 fewer programs to help them make positive choices in their lives. This seems to contradict the federal government’s commitment to fiscal responsibility as what may seem like a cost saving, will ultimately be paid for in other more costly ways. Smith also notes that despite a 12 year history of receiving funding late in the fiscal year, not-for-profit organizations will now be forced to absorb large deficits, as the funds that they have spent in good faith to ensure that urban Aboriginal youth were being supported while awaiting funding, will not be reimbursed. This means up to a $30,000 deficit for some organizations.
The National Association of Friendship Centres, which administers the CCAY program funding, stated this morning that they are working with the federal government to change the terms and conditions of CCAY which may result in future funding. In the meantime, Aboriginal community organizations are being forced to shut down effective prevention and intervention programs that were helping Aboriginal youth to develop their leadership and build skills, self-esteem, and support networks that ultimately help them to achieve their educational, training, employment, cultural, and artistic goals. Smith notes that over 1,700 Aboriginal youth in Metro Vancouver have been reached through this important initiative.
Smith adds that there is no clear reason why the federal government would willingly choose to stop CCAY funding half way through its five-year mandate with no consultation or discussion with the Aboriginal community. The Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Executive Council calls upon the federal government to immediately reinstate funding to this unique and much needed program while they work with the NAFC on next year’s potential funding so that the lives of Aboriginal youth will not be unduly disrupted and negatively impacted.
Cultural Connections for Aboriginal Youth Local Projects Cut:
• Circle of Eagles Lodge Society
• Collingwood Neighbourhood House
• Federation of Aboriginal Foster Parents
• Kla-how-eya Aboriginal Centre of SACS
• Knowledgeable Aboriginal Youth Association
• Metis Family Services
• Native Education Centre
• Red Fox Healthy Living Society
• Richmond Youth Services Agency
• Urban Native Youth Association
• Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing
• Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society
• Warriors Against Violence Society
• Women Against Violence Against Women Society