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Community Rallies to Save Kitpu Youth Programs

50 people gather for emergency fundraising, long-term strategizing against federal cuts to Aboriginal programs

by Ben Sichel

A diverse crowd assembled at the George Dixon Centre in Halifax Tuesday night to discuss how to save Kitpu programs for urban Aboriginal Youth. (photo: Alan White)
A diverse crowd assembled at the George Dixon Centre in Halifax Tuesday night to discuss how to save Kitpu programs for urban Aboriginal Youth. (photo: Alan White)
The event's Facebook page urged supporters to post this image to their Facebook profiles.
The event's Facebook page urged supporters to post this image to their Facebook profiles.
Glenn Knockwood, program co-ordinator, learned last week he would lose his job. (photo: Stella Ducklow)
Glenn Knockwood, program co-ordinator, learned last week he would lose his job. (photo: Stella Ducklow)
Participants met in small groups to discuss short- and long-term courses of action. (Photo: Stella Ducklow)
Participants met in small groups to discuss short- and long-term courses of action. (Photo: Stella Ducklow)

 

HALIFAX - Last week the Kitpu Youth Program, based out of the Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre on Gottingen St., learned it would have to close its doors due to federal budget cuts.

But not if a group of more than 50 people who attended an emergency meeting at the George Dixon Centre in Halifax can help it.

Kitpu Youth “played a significant role in my life, for the better,” said Rebecca Moore, former president of the Kitpu Youth Council.

“I’m half-Mi’kmaq, but I felt alone growing up,” said Moore. “I didn’t know many Aboriginal youth in the city.

“To go to a place where I could learn about my culture was really good for me.”

The youth program had been running on a budget of about $120,000-$126,000 of federal funding per year, said Glenn Knockwood, program co-ordinator.

The funding came from the federal Department of Canadian Heritage’s Cultural Connections for Aboriginal Youth programs – which, according to the Vancouver-based Urban Native Youth Association, has been frozen.

The budget cuts caught Knockwood completely off guard. “I went home Friday and had a nice weekend. On Monday I woke up and I was sick, so I called the centre and they said ‘you have to come in.’ Then they told me about the cuts,” he said.

The diverse and determined crowd at the George Dixon Centre vowed to raise funds to keep the program running, however.

Participants split into small groups to discuss a range of fundraising ideas as well as long-term strategies to help urban Aboriginal youth thrive. Groups discussed benefit shows, silent auctions, and an on-line fundraising campaign and media strategy.

But co-organizer Ardath Whynacht (who blogged last week on the importance of the Kitpu Youth Program) stressed that what was happening in Halifax was also happening in urban centres across the country.

Whynacht called for a national day of action on July 12th to demand that the federal government restore funding to urban Aboriginal youth programs.

“We want Aboriginal programming in our town,” said Whynacht. “Halifax is calling every other town in Canada to want the same thing.”

Glenn Knockwood noted that no other association in Halifax offers culturally-based programming for youth.

There is a “generational disconnect from culture” among Aboriginal youth, says Knockwood.

“Residential schools, the Indian Act, the reservation-ization of Aboriginal people…all these have an effect” on young Aboriginal people’s connection to their cultural background, Knockwood said.

“We’re trying to play catchup.”

Rebecca Moore stressed the importance of Kitpu Youth programs in helping young Aboriginal people discover their identity.

“When you know your identity, you don’t stray, you don’t wander,” said Moore.

“Chances are, you’re going to make better decisions for yourself.”

 

 


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Topics: Indigenous
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Comments

Kitpu Youth

thank you for the coverage of last night's meeting.  In thinking about the situation again this morning I am wanting to be sure that while we try to keep some of the program going in the short term our efforts need to be also on the restoring of the funds.  It seems as if Government will be happy that the Charity of the people will look after this program completely.  The National Day of Action and the request to the Government to restore and increase funding of this kind across the country needs all of us and others across the country involved in small and big ways according to folks abilities and means.

 

again, thank you for keeping the story out there.

 

Is taxation ethical?

This funding cut is a result of Conservative ideology, which includes an idea that public money should not be used for social programs. Basically, individual people should be able to decide whether to give their money to such programs, in the form of charity. It comes down to the debate whether taxation is ethical.

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