First Nations friendship centres have a long tradition of serving the needs of Canada’s urban native population.
And, in particular, staff and volunteers at the friendship centre in Vernon have provided critical programs and support for decades.
So the news that federal funding for the local friendship centre hasn’t arrived should be a concern for all residents, indigenous and non-indigenous.
And particularly troubling is the loss of $90,000, which went towards programs for youth between the ages of 12 and 18.
“We want to help them with employment and life skills and to introduce them to cultural teachings,” said Patricia Wilson, centre executive director.
The other cut of $164,000 directly impacts the centre’s ability to provide the behind-the-scenes support systems needed for programs to operate. As a result, administrative staff are working four days a week.
During last fall’s federal election, the Liberals promised to make Canada’s indigenous residents a priority and to tackle the social and economic challenges they experience.
But those promises sound hollow when you consider the financial plight facing First Nations friendship centres across the country, and particularly in Vernon.
We would encourage all North Okanagan residents, as well as our Conservative MP Mel Arnold, to take a stand and demand that Ottawa restore funding.