The Conservative government recently announced cuts to the CCAY (Cultural Connections for Aboriginal Youth). As part of the strategic under-funding of aboriginal programs in the current budget, this move was devastating to the Kitpu Youth Program at the Friendship Centre on Gottingen St. As of today, all youth programs are cancelled and the Youth Program has closed its doors.
Why we must keep it open:
1. Because aboriginal kids live in a country that has been trying to make them disappear for decades. The 'Dominion' of Canada was erected upon a genocide- a genocide that has never received proper recognition; a genocide whose victims are still grappling with the long-term effects of settler terrorism, racism, poverty and abuse in residential schools and the criminal justice system. Many of those victims are kids. They need a place to go that celebrates who they are and where they have come from.
2. Because cities are damn hard places for kids to live in, sometimes. The Kitpu Youth Centre has been providing incredible youth programs with skin-tight budgets and against the established racism of a town that is still racially segregated. They have done a damn good job on very little money.
3. Because Bev Oda has ordered glasses of orange juice that cost more than a youth worker’s annual salary.
4. Because, in the spirit of openness and generosity, the Kitpu Centre has consistently opened its doors to a wide range of community events- events that made space for dialogue, culture and understanding. We all need open doors sometimes. We need to keep those doors for youth open on Gottingen Street.
5. Because a study on child health outcomes in four different settler states identified a marked pattern of health discrepancy between indigenous and non-indigenous children. Data proves a correlation between racist systems and poor child health.Just yesterday, a University of Alberta study concluded that Aboriginal girls are almost 4 times more likely to visit an emergency room for medical treatment than a non-aboriginal girl of a higher income bracket. Aboriginal kids face challenges that white kids do not. Until reparations are paid- the least we can do is fund an urban youth program in all of the major Canadian cities.
6. Because the Harper Government and its supporters are trying to continue the sociopathic national tradition of silencing indigenous culture. We need urban aboriginal youth in Halifax to have a protected space that will fight for them in the tangled mess of the city.
7. Because 11 years ago, when I was teaching a breakdancing program at the Kitpu Friendship Centre, I saw how many lost boys and ghost girls came in off the street - and found something healthy and positive to do together- aboriginal and non-aboriginal. Many of Halifax’s non-aboriginal kids owe a debt to the open doors of the Kitpu Centre. The least we can do today is stand up as a city and find a way to keep those doors open until we can vote this sociopathic, racist Conservative government out of office.
But mostly, because I need to live in a town that will fight for aboriginal youth programs-
Because, despite the many fights we face with the current budget - this one is a perfect opportunity to show solidarity to kids who deserve a fighting chance.
I think some emergency fundraising is in order.
***UPDATE: Because of an overwhelming show of concern and support in Halifax for supporting Kitpu Youth Programs and the Friendship Centre, an open community meeting has been called for Tuesday, June 19th at 7:30 pm at the George Dixon Centre in the Multipurpose Room. Please join us!