The federal government is shaking up its Urban Aboriginal Strategy with a funding approach focused on helping aboriginal people finish school and secure jobs.
The new Urban Aboriginal Strategy, which will come into effect April 1, will replace previous urban aboriginal programming and form a new funding model in collaboration with the National Association of Friendship Centres, which will "result in more dollars going directly to supporting community organizations and projects," according to the Government of Canada website.
The federal government has committed to provide $43 million per year over the next two years to the NAFC for the delivery of funding to organizations "that align with the government’s priority of increasing the participation of urban aboriginal peoples in Canada’s economy."
Although non-profit organizations from cities across Canada will be eligible to apply, said City of Brandon policy analyst Nathan Peto, the government has yet to release further details regarding the funding application process.
"It puts not only us, but a lot of organizations throughout Manitoba in a difficult position where we have staff in ongoing programs and don’t know about continuing funding and how that funding will work," Peto said.
In March 2013, Brandon Urban Aboriginal Peoples’ Council received roughly $80,000 in funding from the federal government, the majority of which is funding David Ironstand’s nine-month term position as Brandon’s aboriginal liaison officer, which expires at the end of May. The rest of the funds have gone towards hosting several aboriginal youth conferences, youth supports as well as the city’s partnership with Westman Communications Group, which includes a positive aboriginal profile orientated television show that airs on WCG-TV, Ironstand said.
Although BUAPC plans to reapply for continued funding under the government’s new model once it’s released, projects or programs which previously received funding, "should not have become dependent on the funding for their core operations," according to a statement prepared by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister Bernard Valcourt’s press secretary.
"I am happy that we have reached an agreement in principle on all the terms and conditions for the delivery of the strategy," the statement reads.
"The new approach will result in greater efficiency and reduced duplication."
Program and project application funding details for the 2014-15 year "will soon be updated," according to the Government of Canada website.
Since the government is still determining what the funding application will look like, Ironstand said BUAPC is in the early stages of discussing possible economic development projects with a focus on job training, as well as programs that help keep local aboriginal youth in school.
"That’s the need I’ve been hearing over the past three or four months, there’s a need to find the supports to fill those gaps," Ironstand said. "A lot of the people coming from out of town, they get home sick and a lot of the times they don’t have the supports to stay in town and obviously they don’t stay in school so that’s an issue."
Although there’s no guarantee the City of Brandon or BUAPC will extend Ironstand’s position, he’s "extremely happy" with what’s been done so far to help local aboriginal youth.
"Through this term we’ve opened doors ... and now it’s just a matter of having the time to focus on all the other areas besides the youth and positive profiles."
Other changes to the government’s UAS include turning four previous urban aboriginal programs into two. As of March 31, Young Canada Works for Aboriginal Urban Youth, the Aboriginal Friendship Centre program, Cultural Connections for Aboriginal Youth and the Urban Aboriginal Strategy program will become two new programs — Urban Partnerships and Community Capacity Support.
The Urban Partnerships program will focus on bringing governments, aboriginal communities and non-profit organizations together to support projects and initiatives that help urban aboriginal people get jobs. Community Capacity will provide funding to aboriginal community programs and services while attracting public and private contributions.
The government’s new approach will also include working alongside other government initiatives such as the First Nation Income Assistance program, and other aboriginal skills and employment training programs.