Open letter to Health and Social Services Minister Glenn Hart, Culture and Tourism Minister Elaine Taylor, Justice Minister Marion Horne and Education Minister Patrick Rouble re Sun Dog Carving and Northern Cultural Expressions Society funding cuts:
On Thursday evening I had the pleasure of attending the opening of two wonderful cultural exhibits at the Yukon Arts Centre.
Both the Sewing Our Traditions Ã Dolls of Canada’s North and the Northern Cultural Expressions Society’s Dugout Canoe have strong roots in First Nation storytelling.
The story of the Dugout Canoe is a powerful one Ã I was reminded of the cold and rainy day last August when the proud young carvers carried the 400-plus-pound canoe through the bushes from the Yukon River to chants and drumbeats for the ground-breaking ceremony of the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre.
The pride and sense of achievement on the faces of the participants in the intensive experience that had created that canoe from a massive cedar log was evident to all. It was clearly not just a carving camp Ã it was a life-changing experience.
At the opening of the exhibits at the arts centre on June 10th, Taylor, speaking on behalf of the Yukon government, praised the work of the carvers and of the Sundog carving program. As Taylor spoke, at length, in praise of Sundog Carving, one could feel the collective dropping-open of mouths.
I am not sure she realized the irony of what she was saying.
Just this past week, the Yukon Party government refused to provide ongoing funding for the Sundog program.
It has grown, slowly and carefully, over the past few years. Andrew and Heather Finton, the visionary founders of the Sundog carving program, chose to follow a path of developing it and its offshoots in a methodical way, maintaining the focus on the participants.
It has not been an easy journey.
The type of programming Sundog does cuts across the mandates of many government departments. Which explains its success. We are too familiar with the single-dimension, linear approaches of past failures.
Sundog is an example of what successful programming in Yukon can achieve. The Sundog program, like the Dreamcatcher Mentoring program that the Yukon Party government has also refused to support, does not fit neatly into a single departmental mandate.
Yukon is a small community; we can build on that as a strength by ensuring that government programs and policies reflect the best of nimble, adaptable and responsive organizations. It is past time to shed the silos. Co-operation and collaboration begins within government Ã across government departments and agencies.
Now that Sundog has demonstrated it has, through the hard work of many, built a strong foundation, there is a unique opportunity for true partnership Ã with the board of the Northern Cultural Expressions Society, with Yukon First Nations and the Yukon government Ã or the Yukon government can choose to snatch failure from the jaws of success. Which will it be?
I urge you to work together to reinstate adequate core funding to the Sundog program to allow it to continue to deliver the iconic programs for which it has become so well known Ã programs that run the gamut of healing, employment creation, basic literacy, professional development, to cultural enrichment and tourism.
I encourage you and your respective departmental officials to work with the Northern Cultural Expressions Society to develop a sound multi-year funding arrangement, to provide core staffing and facilitate long-range planning for programming and appropriate venue arrangements.
Elizabeth Hanson, leader
Yukon New Democratic Party