Interim Youth Grand Chief Joey Blacksmith is feeling a pinch in his department’s wallet after the Cree Nation Youth Council saw a sharp drop in their funding compared to the previous year. After receiving $550,000 for their 2009 projects, Blacksmith said the CNYC is only getting $150,000 for 2010 from the Paix des Braves and New Relationship agreement funds.

“I tried to get answers in Quebec City (at the Council Board meeting) and nobody answered me there. They asked me to do a presentation on the budget so I thought we would get it but they passed a resolution to give us only $150,000,” said Blacksmith.

Blacksmith said he had been looking to present his budget to the Council Board when they held their winter meeting in Quebec City but he was not given the opportunity to do so. While in the previous year the CNYC had received an additional $400,000 from the two Agreements for Youth Council projects, he was told this kind of funding was not an obligation under either Agreement.

With the current funding that the regional youth council will be receiving for this year, Blacksmith said they will now be receiving less than each local youth council receives in their annual budget as the local youth councils get over $150,000 annually.

“What this means for us is that now a lot of projects are going to be on hold until we find the right agency to fund them and cover the costs,” said Blacksmith.

While he is worried about having to shelve some CNYC projects for the time being, Blacksmith is also concerned about how his department is going to have to spend their time looking for funding elsewhere in the Cree Nation.

So far that process is not going too badly. Blacksmith said that at the advice of Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come he contacted the Niskamoon Corporation to see what they might be able to provide for youth projects. The CNYC will also be approaching other agencies to see what additional funding is available.

While at the moment he could not speculate as to which specific activities or projects might see the axe, Blacksmith was mainly concerned about how paralyzing his $150,000 would be to work with. The CNYC summer canoe trip along costs about $60,000 but this is one of the projects that might meet the Niskamoon Corporation criteria for funding.

Activities like the April Youth Symposium will not be affected by the current budget reduction as it is being paid for out of the CNYC’s previous budget and their staffing will not be affected by this cut either.

Blacksmith’s biggest concern is the impact that this will have on the youth.

“Without these kinds of projects I think the youth will be more rebellious and think that people don’t care about them. I am seeing this locally because this is how kids think. If we don’t do anything for them, they will think that they are not important to the rest of the community and this is when they go off to do their own thing. Then things like vandalism start. This is my point of view and this is what I have experienced before,” said Blacksmith.

CRA Executive Director Bill Namagoose responded to the current CNYC budget crunch saying that they are not obligated to provide the additional $400,000 through either of the Agreements and that $150,000 is the CNYC’s regular annual budget. That the larger sum of money they had received in last year’s budget was in fact a one-time deal to fund a special project.

Namagoose said that though the CNYC had made a similar funding request for this year, they had done so far too late and as a result of this situation the CRA has now established a process for funding for similar entities.

“Showing up a few days before the council board meeting to ask for funding is also not the way to go. They should have asked for this several months in advance. For the next fiscal year we will make sure that all of these entities know that they need to give us sufficient time before they make their budget requests,” said Namagoose.