North West Friendship Centre to benefit from Federal funding announcement

Taken from: Meadowlake Now

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on May 21, the federal government is sending $75 million to organizations that help Indigenous people living in urban areas and off-reserves through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Laurie Bouvier, executive director of the Aboriginal Friendship Centres of Saskatchewan, said federal funding will assist Meadow Lake’s North West Friendship Centre. The Friendship Centre team will be asked to increase capacity to handle the increase in services. Meadow Lake Friendship Centre could see an increase in both staff and program funding.

“We have not come here without our friends,” Bouvier said. “Shadow minister [for Indigenous Services], MP Gary Vidal has been a great resource for us at the federal level and we’re making great strides at the provincial level as well and we want to recognize those who helped us get to where we are.”

Meadow Lake Tribal Council’s (MLTC) Vice Chief Richard Derocher told meadowlakeNOW nearly 60 per cent of total registered First Nations people live off-reserve and is hoping the money will go to individuals who need it most.

“[Funding is] directed to organizations that deal with off-reserve memberships and my hope is it will go to people in most need,” he said. “I hope it doesn’t go to organizations for administration. I hope it goes directly to the people in order for them to take care of some of their shortfalls.

Derocher said funding would be useful for people who are on social assistance, young mothers, single parents, and elderly on a fixed income.

“I’m thankful the government of Canada is looking at off-reserve people as they were missed in the first catch,” Derocher said. “I’m glad the government did look at helping out the off-reserve membership because it is a strain on the First Nations.”

Derocher said funding to assist off-reserve members will alleviate pressure from the Chief and councils as MLTC is assisting with funding during the coronavirus outbreak in the northwest and is taking care of people who do live on reserves.

The federal government had previously promised $15 million in funding for services such as counselling, health care, food, and supportive housing. More than a million Indigenous people live in cities or off-reserves, according to Trudeau, and they deserve good services that are culturally appropriate.

The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, which represents Indigenous people living off reserves, has said that imbalance is discriminatory, denying adequate help to some people depending on where they live.

Service organizations have said demand for the help they provide is increased and it’s difficult to provide assistance with anti-pandemic safety measures in place.