The second protest in support of Angel’s Nest swelled in numbers, bloated with politicians.
About 35 people gathered in front of the legislature Thursday afternoon to rally for the shelter for homeless youth.
The day before, Health and Social Services Minister Glenn Hart distributed a letter stating the government won’t fund the shelter (see page 8).
Addressed to the Youth of Today Society, which spearheads the project, the letter says required information is still missing from the proposal.
“Based on the information that has been provided, the Yukon government cannot justify investing in your proposal,” wrote Hart.
That provoked another rally. With special guests.
Along with dozens of youth and supporters from the community, federal and territorial politicians took to the street.
It was old-time, dustbowl political stumping, with party leaders jumping on a truck’s tailgate and addressing the crowd.
The government’s role is to provide and protect people, said Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell.
“Not for most people or some people, but all people,” he told the crowd.
Youth need a permanent shelter, not a temporary pilot project, he added.
Mitchell was referring to the fact that Skookum Jim Friendship Centre’s youth-shelter pilot program has been extended until March 2009. This follows the three-month extension, which covered the summer.
“Kids can’t live their lives in seven-month chunks,” he said.
Supporters haven’t given up of the project yet, said society executive director Vicki Durrant.
Why the government doesn’t want to fund the shelter is still unclear, she said.
The government might be reluctant to give up its millions of dollars Ottawa provides for First Nation child care, she said.
After three years of funding from the government, the society plans on getting First Nations to fund the shelter.
“If First Nations are delivering their own programs, then there wouldn’t be as much money for YTG,” said Durrant.
“There would be less money in government coffers.”
Santana Taylor, 19, works at the Blue Feather Youth Centre.
With a handful of friends she grabbed a yellow placard and stood at the sidewalk waving at cars.
“We’re trying to get more support because the government won’t fund us,” said Taylor.
“We have a lot of homeless youth.”
Several of her friends are homeless right now, and she’s concerned for their well-being.
“My friends are homeless and what are they going to do this winter? I don’t want to find them frozen.”
Angel’s Nest is named after 19-year-old Angel Carlick, who’s remains were found in some wooded trails adjoining the Pilot Mountain subdivision.
The society made a $50,000 downpayment on the Hide and Jeckell hostel, which could be converted into a 22-bed shelter for youth aged 18 to 24.
The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation provided a forgivable loan to the society to cover the cost.
But the society needs financial commitments from the government before the loan is provided.
The society has until October 1 to secure the operations and maintenance funding — about $1.2 million.
The Yukon Party is relying on its tactic of divide and conquer, said NDP Leader Todd Hardy.
Cabinet is playing Skookum Jim against Youth of Today Society, said Hardy.
“That’s how they stay in power, and we’re all going to be poorer for it,” said Hardy.
The government should be helping the society complete its proposal rather than just denying and denying again, he added.
“They hire people to be champions for mining, to help navigate industry through the red tape,” said Hardy.
“Where are the people assigned to assist organizations like Youth of Today?”
Liberal MP Larry Bagnell briefly addressed the crowd, telling them he drove six hours from Keno just to be there.
He praised Durrant for her work and dedication through all the frustration she has faced.
“This is a critical issue,” said Bagnell.
Green Party candidate John Streicker was the first politico on the scene, taking a sign and shouldering up to other protesters.
A grassroots effort should be supported, he said.
“It’s supported by the people who are involved,” said Streicker.
“It’s not some program parachuted in by the federal government.”