The federal government still seems content to engage in doublespeak on its action plan to address violence against aboriginal women.
Despite assertions to the contrary, the government hasn’t provided any evidence that the plan will do anything more than what Canada has already committed to doing.
“Again I’ll stress that the $25 million that was allocated in Budget 2014 is brand new $25 million,” Yukon MP Ryan Leef said in an interview Friday.
However, the $25 million commitment over five years that Leef calls new money is in fact a renewal of a program that has been in place since 2010. The renewal was announced in February of this year, and then re-announced last week as the keystone of the action plan.
Leef conceded this point when pushed on the issue.
“I think people get confused. We talk two things in cross purposes here. One, it’s a continuation of a substantial investment, $25 million for 2010-2015. Then we realized there was continuing work that was going to be needed to be done, there was a continuing role for the government of Canada to be playing in that, so they added an additional $25 million and extended the program.”
In total, the action plan commits $200 million over five years for related programs.
Nearly half of that money, $92 million, is for continued operational funding of shelters in 41 aboriginal communities.
The federal government has jurisdiction over those shelters, and with this money is simply committing to keep the doors open for five more years.
Aboriginal Affairs funds at least one Yukon women’s shelter, but the department would not confirm which one or ones.
“I don’t think that any of the aboriginal groups that are supportive of this would characterize it as frustrating that a good portion of the resources are going to existing shelters because that’s exactly what they asked us to do, was to support the existing shelters, make them more responsive to community needs, have them open longer, have greater capacity in very specific communities,” said Leef.
However, the action plan does not commit to budget increases or more resources existing shelters.
“You’re asking for where the budget have been increased and where spending has increased. I don’t know that to be the case right now. I mean, I could look, but I don’t think I implied that the budgets have been increased at this point or the capacity has been increased. I think that’s the real point of the $200 million investment.”
An existing shelter in the Yukon, for example, could apply for funding to expand its reach, he said.
About $70 million of the $200 million is proposal-based, where communities can come up with a project and request funding.
Leef has committed to sit down with Yukon organizations to see that they make the most of that money.
But that money is for new, time-limited projects, and not for increasing operational funding for existing shelters.
An existing shelter would have to spend already stretched resources just to apply for the money, and commit to deliver new programming if the money is granted.
Marian Horne, president of the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council, slammed the federal government for the plan, which she called “not really an action plan.”
“They’re renewing the funding that was available in the last five years, and again it’s a piecemeal approach,” said Horne. “Until we get funding that’s adequate we won’t reach the root cause.”
Groups have to fight for the little existing programming funding that is available, she said.
And while Leef said he wants to talk with Yukoners about how to address this issue, he hasn’t asked them in the past, she said.
“Nobody comes around to talk to us. Ryan Leef has never come to our office, come in to say, ‘How’s it going? Do you have any problems? What do you see as the problem for aboriginal women?’ Never, they have never visited our offices. Never asked to shed light on how aboriginal women and girls are led down this path, to be missing or murdered. They don’t listen to us.
“The residential schools, as an example, the federal government said that’s what would fix us, that’s what would change the aboriginal people. Well it certainly did. And now they’re coming along and trying to tell us again that they know what we need. They treat us as if we are invisible women, and we are as far as Canada society goes.
“(Leef) says he has to talk to Yukoners. I don’t know how much louder we can be for him to hear us.”
Leef said that an interdepartmental oversight committee and regular reviews will ensure that the action plan stays on track and is making progress in the areas it commits to.
Contact Jacqueline Ronson at