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Two Manitoba Friendship Centres Lose Federal Funding
A grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage has fallen through for two Manitoba Friendship Centres, the Riverton & District Friendship Centre and the Lynn Lake Friendship Centre.
"This hits so hard because of the large number of youth in those two communities," said Jack Park, President of the Manitoba Association of Friendship Centres (MAC) Board of Directors. "All youth programming at both Friendship Centres will be affected by this decision."
The Cultural Connections for Aboriginal Youth (CCAY) grant supports a wide array of Aboriginal youth programming such as cultural development workshops and social activities that offer positive guidance and alternatives to gang and other negative behaviour.
Mr. Park says funding rules under the CCAY program, formerly known as the Urban Multipurpose Aboriginal Youth Centres program, state that only communities with a population of 1,000 or greater qualify. Both Lynn Lake and Riverton have lost their funding as a result of this rule even though they service a much larger geographical area outside of their town borders.
"What is very puzzling is why they waited until now to cut the funding and why they are enforcing this rule so vigorously now," said Mr. Park. "There are 117 Friendship Centres across the country and only two don't meet the criteria for population. Both are in Manitoba."
The centres have re-submitted their applications for funding explaining that they don't just service the town of Riverton or Lynn Lake, but a greater geographical area, and were still denied.
Adam Blanchard, Executive Director of MAC, says population is the only criteria the centres do not meet. "Our demonstration of success through attendance and need in the area has just been met with, 'You don't meet the population requirement'," says Blanchard.
Blanchard also says that census data in other areas shows Friendship Centres that meet the population requirement in other provinces have fewer Aboriginals in their population.
"They aren't looking at the big picture and taking into account that our centres target where the issues are and where the highest number of Aboriginal populations are concentrated," says Blanchard.
Core funding through the Aboriginal Friendship Centre Program will still be available to support basic programming, but anything extra such as cultural programs teaching fiddling, drumming lessons, beadwork, moccasin making, traditional cooking, traditional dance, jigging, throat singing, music media arts, and artist programs may no longer be offered in Lynn Lake and Riverton.
"It's really sad for the youth that will be displaced and also for the staff and volunteer board members in those areas that give so much of their time," says Mr. Park.
Mr. Park met with Vic Toews, Member of Parliament for Provencher and Senior Member of the Conservative Party of Manitoba and James Bezan, Member of Parliament for Selkirk-Interlake in early December. While Bezan was aware of the funding cuts, Toews was not.
The National Association of Friendship Centres has also attempted to lobby on their behalf, but so far has achieved no results. Mr. Park says, "We will continue to fight the fight on their behalf. We haven't given up yet."
Last Updated (Friday, 10 February 2012 14:10)
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