If the federal government goes through with a proposal to cut off all funds to Native friendship centres, the result will be massive social upheaval and 1,800 lost jobs, warns a leaked government document.
But that�s just what Ottawa is thinking about doing as it looks for ways to cut the deficit. Federal bureaucrats kick around the idea of cutting off all funds to the centres in an internal government document leaked to friendship centres in late November. The other options discussed are cutting funding to the centres by anywhere from 25 to 75 per cent.
Federal bureaucrats paint a grim picture of the consequences of cutting off all funds to centres. In the leaked document, they warn of a �loss of a recognized, experienced and respected urban Aboriginal infrastructure,� and say eliminating all funds would further �maiginalize� Canada�s 700,000 urban Natives, provoking �increased political activism and increased social costs.
Ottawa provided $17 million in core funding to 99 centres across the country last year. Heritage Ministry spokesman Alain Garceau said staff at the centres will have to wait until the federal budget is announced in February to find out the fate of their funding. �As far as the funding is concerned, there is no decision whatsoever,� he said.
News of the possible cuts has left staff at the friendship centres across the country in a state of shock. They have mobilized an emergency campaign that includes petitions, writing letters to politicians and calling local MP�s.
�We�re trying to sensitize people that it would mean a reduction in services. It could even mean cutting some jobs,� said Edith Cloutier of the Val d�Or Native Friendship Centre.
�It�s a real kick to Aboriginal people,� said Marc Maracle of the National Association of Friendship Centres. �If you look at any socio-economic indicator, Aboriginal people are at the bottom by 20 or 30 per cent. This is going to come on the backs of the people who can least afford it.� The centres are already strained to their financial limits, he said.