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Letter campaign undertaken to continue UAS funding
Building relationships is what Aboriginal culture is about and that is why it is important that the federal government continue to fund the Urban Aboriginal Strategy initiative.
“We’re in the final stages of developing a community strategic plan,” said Karen McCarthy, executive director with Wicihitowin Circle.
Although Edmonton has been part of the UAS for five years, it has taken this long to open communication and to build trust to the point that the city’s organizations, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, can come together and deliver programming that will benefit the second largest urban Aboriginal population in the country.
All the hard work is in jeopardy, said McCarthy, whose organization is the facilitating body for the funding from Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Canada, if Minister John Duncan doesn’t renew the funding for a third consecutive term.
The UAS has been in operation for 10 years, renewed twice for five-year periods. Funding is due to expire in March 2012. In 2009-2010 (the latest breakdown of figures available), the three Alberta cities that are part of the program received almost $2.5 million with Edmonton receiving $820,000, Calgary getting $984,000 and Lethbridge taking in $633,000, In 2007, the government renewed the program, committing $68.5 million.
“The strategy is designed to build up the capacity of the community,” said Marilyn Rose, who is the outgoing Edmonton representative for the UAS steering committee, which consists of representatives from the 13 cities across Canada which participate in the initiative.
Edmonton has set nine priorities under the UAS initiative: education, arts and culture, health and well-being, employment and training, economic development, research, housing, justice, and Tawow (welcoming committee).
Without the UAS funding, Edmonton would not be able to pursue the collaborative approach the city’s organizations are beginning to take in serving the Aboriginal population.
“Because we’re such a large population and spread out throughout the city, we have to include more people, more organizations,” said McCarthy. “It takes time to bring it all together.”
Numbers range from 70,000-85,000 for Edmonton’s Aboriginal population, she said, second only to Winnipeg.
“We’re working towards sustainability,” said McCarthy.
Having another five years of UAS funding will go a long way toward that, said Rose.
To that end, the UAS caucus has engaged in a letter writing campaign, asking organizations that receive funding from the program to write Duncan and express the need for continuing financial support.
Rose is a contract worker with the Canadian Paraplegic Association, which has programs for Aboriginal clientele. The CPA has sent Duncan a letter stating, “Although great strides have been made, impacting the lives of many urban Aboriginal people across Canada, “sustaining momentum” and continuing with the work that has been done, is of the utmost importance if urban Aboriginal Canadians are to realize their full potential economically, socially and politically in Canadian society!”
Rose said the caucus would like the letters to reach Duncan in the next couple of months. She also noted that representatives from the caucus are hoping to meet with Duncan. ANAC is expected to make a budget decision in the spring.
“We’re hoping the Urban Aboriginal Strategy will continue, and that the minister will see the value. It was continued before because of the success stories of the projects funded,” said Rose.
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