KJIPUKTUK, (HALIFAX) - Reduced financial support by the Department of Community Services makes it difficult for at least some community groups to continue to operate.
Groups like the Nova Scotia chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the Metro Food Bank, the Nova Scotia Association for Community Living and People First are all affected.
People First Nova Scotia, a self-advocacy group for people labeled with an intellectual disability, is directly impacted by the round of cuts to discretionary grants. Their $67,000 annual grant will be reduced by $20,000 this year.
That grant constitutes the lion's share of the money that allows the small organization to run an office and a staff of one, explains People First vice president David Kent.
“I was pretty disturbed when I heard this news,” said Kent. “It made me feel sick to the stomach, knowing that they were cutting organizations for people with intellectual disabilities like People First and the Association for Community Living and everybody else.”
People First is unique in Nova Scotia in that it provides a first voice perspective on the plight of people labeled as living with intellectual disabilities. The group's motto is nothing about us without us.
The Nova Scotia chapter, with its seven community chapters and active membership, is one of the most vibrant in the country.
The group has been critical of the Department of Community Services in the past because it continues to institutionalize people with intellectual disabilities and because promised changes in approach at times seem slow to come. .
“We are independent and we speak up for ourselves,” says Kent. “We need our small office and staff to help us with the work. Members can't step up an do the work of the staff, because our members have disabilities.”
The Nova Scotia Association for Community Living (NSACL) is another victim of the department's cuts. The group shares many of People First's objectives.
Like People First, the organization has been critical of Community Services policies and practices in the past.
Now the group faces a $24,000 annual cut to an original $79,000 grant.
That hurts, especially because it comes right on the heels of a federal decision to stop its annual support for the organization entirely, explains Jean Coleman, executive director of the NSACL.
“Our funding is cut by 30 percent and that will affect the way we can support people with intellectual disabilities in Nova Scotia,” says Coleman. “It will have a huge impact.”
Community Minister Joanne Bernard is shrugging it off.
“I'm not looking at funding advocacy groups which some of these are," she tells a CBC reporter.
"I'm not looking at funding national organizations that have millions of dollars in bank accounts nationally that they can filter down into the provinces as need be," Bernard says, alluding to the Canadian National Institute of the Blind.
Clearly those millions of dollars in bank accounts are not available to the NSACL and People First.
Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert