Vulnerable Aboriginal Youth Funding Cancelled after 13 years of successful programs
The Federal Government through INAC Indigenous and Northern Affairs has cancelled Vulnerable Aboriginal Youth Services, funding and supports. After over 13 years of impact, success and helping Aboriginal youth succeed, INAC has cancelled funding without local consultation or a solution to meet their needs. At risk Indigenous Youth are left out in the cold to services that support their success, health, wellness, learning and cultural connections.
The Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs of Canada has left Urban Aboriginal youth out in the cold withdrawing funding for hundreds of communities across BC and Canada, including Richmond.
WireService.ca Media Release (03/12/2019) Richmond, BC – Vulnerable Aboriginal youth in Richmond, South Delta and South Vancouver, as young as 12 and old as 24 will be left out in the cold when it comes to finding culturally based services that support education, cultural activities/learning, employment, wellness and life skills. This cancellation impacts hundreds of other kids, families and older youth through programs that were created collaboratively with partners such as the Province and corporate donors as part of the original funding requirements of the Federal Government (through Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and formerly Canadian Heritage).
In other words the Federal Government is walking away from a multi-level partnership and a population growing at over 42.5% since 2006 -exceeding all other populations. This decision impacts hundreds of youth per year in our community, family members, foster parents, kids and thousands more across Canada. In 2017 over 4266 youth benefited from these types of programs provided by over 249 partners. These youth have nowhere else to go for cultural programming, one to one supports, help with school, access to health and wellness supports and career and educational planning. There is no reason to cancel these services either for impact or financial reasons. Some of the key facts and outcomes relevant to these services include:
- Services have been funded for 13 years under several names Urban Multi-purpose Aboriginal Youth Centres, Cultural Connections for Aboriginal Youth and most recently Urban. Partnerships for Indigenous People – all with common core outcomes and goals.
- During the majority of this program it was a partnership with the BC Association of Aboriginal friendship Centres, the National Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres, Canadian Heritage/INAC and hundreds of agencies across Canada.
- A core requirement of funding was to partner with other funders and agencies in the design, financial support and delivery of the services. The Federal Government demanded and required interdependent funding and service models (creating inter dependencies between funders and services).
- The program, and our agency have exceeded all metrics and financial accountabilities.
- Across BC the average cost was $20 per youth supported through this funding while the cost savings can be as much as $115,000 per year for a youth that doesn’t go to jail, $50,000 per year for a youth in care and not to mention the future health savings or contributions that healthy, successful Aboriginal youth would make to the country.
- Only partial funding has been received in 2 out of the last 3 years.
- After two years of trying to explore options and find out information from INAC it is clear that there is no plan in place to meet the needs of Urban Aboriginal Youth across Canada or in communities such as ours where we are the sole provider of services.
- The support and benefits include employment for Aboriginal people and the youth we service (during the 13 years we have employed over 20 of the youth we support through the Centre).
- Nearly 60 percent of Indigenous people live in urban areas. However, the economic well-being of Indigenous people in urban areas is well below that of non-Indigenous people. Statistics Canada studies show that Indigenous persons are much more likely to be unemployed and living below the poverty line than non-Indigenous persons.
- More than half of people identifying as Inuit, Métis or First Nations live in urban areas, and the proportion of Indigenous peoples living in urban areas has increased over time to 56 percent in 2011, the most recent period for which data is available. The Indigenous population is younger and growing faster than non-Indigenous populations in Canada (Evaluation of the Urban Aboriginal Strategy, 2017 Government of Canada).
- As part of our work we supported hundreds of youth to find employment and their career path. During the 13 years we have youth becoming doctors, teachers, lawyers, social workers, trades professionals and many other sectors. This has been in large part to the supports we have provided.
- This decision and the cancellation of funding impacts other funding partners and programs that came together in good faith based on the development of this long term relationship. They have not been consulted or considered.
- There is no plan in place to meet this huge gap in service for Urban Aboriginal Youth – Since 2006, the Aboriginal population has grown by 42.5%-more than four times the growth rate of the non-Aboriginal population over the same period
- This decision will result in more kids in care, more youth involved with the justice system and more Aboriginal people on social supports moving forward.
- The program and funding has been evaluated several times most recently in 2017. The recommendations and findings were very clearly laid out. The evaluation recommended expansion of the services, more collaboration at all levels of government (such as our agency and programs showcase). The report showcased the program works!
- That funding decisions were made in BC and involved Youth from BC – where as now there is no local accountability or involvement.
“Our goal is to ensure Aboriginal youth in Canada are culturally connected, resilient, and provided with the supports and skills for success both today and tomorrow. As a community agency that has a legacy of being the only provider of supports in our community for Aboriginal and Indigenous people going back 30 years we have seen what works and what doesn’t. These services work. As a person of Aboriginal ancestry it frustrates me when we don’t recognize and build on success and innovation. Every youth that goes into care, is involved with the justice system, has a child with no support is a tragedy and one that costs our society in dollars and a lack of sense that decisions like this speak to if we are work together and assure each child, youth, family and person regardless of ancestry can succeed and thrive.” Marshall Thompson, Executive Director of Connections Community Services Society.
“I am a youth that was in and out of care and was supported by Pathways for years. They helped me when I was on the street, when I was struggling at school and home and when I struggled with addictions and my health. Without them I would be homeless, in jail or worse. Today I live on my own, I have a great job, friends and this all goes back to the centre, the staff and the opportunities they helped me take advantage of. I will always be involved with them, tell my story and volunteer to help the next kids and youth they see. These services need to continue or I don’t know what will happen to kids and youth like I was.” John – former Client of the Program
About Connections Community Services Society
Connections Community Services Society (formerly Richmond Youth Service Agency) has been providing innovative and impactful support and programs in the Richmond community for over 46 years. We are committed to supporting each individual, child, youth, and family to thrive and reach for their dreams. Our dedicated staff and volunteers work with children, youth and families towards their own personal success. Our programs are based on the foundation of building assets with the support of individuals and the community. We believe it is vital that all children, youth and families are able to access the support and assistance they require, when they need it. The agency provides a wide range of services that cover young children, family supports, youth at risk, employment programs, cultural programs, out of school activities and care, senior supports, intergenerational programs, volunteer opportunities and is the only provider of services to Aboriginal people in our community. Each year we provide support and assistance to over 2500 children, youth and families in our community and leverage thousands of hours of volunteer time to support our success.
For more information:
Connections Community Services Society
Formerly: Richmond Youth Services Agency
Tel: 604-271-7600 ext 120 Cell 604-551-6642