The Yukon’s MLAs gave a unanimous show of support to the Northern Cultural Expressions Society on May 2. But it remains to be seen whether this means the carving studio will receive the money it says it needs.
The organization is better known by its old name, Sundog Studio. Since 2004, the Fourth Avenue operation has taught at-risk youth how to create beautiful wood carvings.
Some of the group’s artists come from troubled homes and struggle with alcohol and drugs. Others have developmental disabilities.
“The common thread is they’ve all had struggles,” said president Diane Villeseche.
But like many non-profits, the group’s funding has been precarious. It initially depended on a grant from Service Canada, but that money ended two and a half years ago.
Since then, the group has “limped on” in a diminished form, said Villeseche.
Money from the Yukon’s Justice Department has kept the operation open, but, with just three staff, it lacks a counsellor, master carver and executive director.
Eight advanced artists are currently enrolled in the program. They regularly visit schools and the jail to share what they’ve learned.
But there isn’t enough funding available to take in new students, said Villeseche. Nor is there money to pay students the stipend they once received.
So the group asked the territorial government to provide $900,000 in funding this year, spread across five departments: Health and Social Services, Justice, Tourism and Culture, Education and Economic Development.
It doesn’t look as if the group will get that. But it may receive $630,000 under a deal that’s in the works, said Villeseche. That’s up considerably from the current budget of $345,000.
The group may seem to be asking for a lot, but Villeseche asserts it’s money well spent, compared to leaving its pupils adrift.
“What’s the cost then?” she asked.
The Yukon Party’s Patti McLeod proposed the motion, which called on the Government of Canada to financially support the group. The NDP’s Kevin Barr added the Yukon government’s name to the motion.
The Yukon Party agreed. But House Leader Brad Cathers urged MLAs to impress upon Ottawa that it should pick up the tab.
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