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Feds Un-freeze Funding for Kitpu Youth Centre

Public pressure forces government to back-pedal on cuts to CCAY

by Ben Sichel

A news release today would seem to indicate that the Harper government is backtracking on its cuts to the Kitpu Youth Program, run out of the Mi'kmaq Native Friendship Centre. 

The release, entitled "Harper Government Investing in Preparing Aboriginal Youth for the Labour Market," says that "funding for the Cultural Connections for Aboriginal Youth Program (CCAY) will now be made available for projects eligible under the programs [sic] new terms and conditions."

The release further reads that funds to the CCAY had been "temporarily frozen to allow a review of its terms and conditions." At a July 12th rally, however, Halifax NDP MP Megan Leslie noted that the government's action had been first announced as a "cut," then changed to a "freeze," before being downgraded to a "temporary freeze."

Ardath Whynacht, a community activist who blogged about the cuts the day they were announced before taking a leadership role in the campaign to save the Kitpu youth program, wrote on her Facebook page that the announcement is only a partial victory:

"While I believe that the swiftness with which the Feds reversed the CCAY freeze represents a win for the tremendous work of the NAFC, Friendship Centre staff and various coalitions across Canada like Save Kitpu... We do not feel that a Federally-imposed shift in mandate is in line with that Canadians want. We want aboriginal youth to have access to cultural programs. We do not want a continuation of colonial relationships that see white bureaucrats imposing top-down policies on aboriginal people's programs. We want aboriginal self-determination and recognition for the tremendous successes that CCAY programs were already achieving. We believe that aboriginal youth are in the best position to know what they need- and that they need to be consulted, too. 

I urge everyone to keep pushing- on August 12th- by contacting MPs, MLAs and city councillors to support operational funding for Friendship Centres- funding that respects a right to self determination and the importance of culture- a culture that was, for too long, silenced by the Government of Canada, Provincial Assemblies and christian churches. 

I want to recognize the many voices on the small peninsular town of Halifax, which sits on un-ceded Mi'kmaq territory, that formed a chorus of support for Kitpu. We were heard across Canada. We raised a quarter of our fundraising goal in less than 4 weeks. Kitpu staff and youth worked tirelessly to keep the pressure on. We had an incredible victory here and I can only hope that other small towns across Canada are prepared to keep standing behind their Friendship Centres as we move into a few more years of Conservative tyranny and false austerity. We may have to fight again. Here's to a united front for self-determination for aboriginal peoples and saying NO to colonialism today. 

A HUGE thank you to Kitpu staff and youth and all of the incredible volunteers we have had since our first meeting on June 19th."

Whynacht also noted that "the top-down nature of a 'program realignment' to meet the federal mandate is in contravention to internationally recognized rights to self determination for Aboriginal people."


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Topics: Indigenous
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