Ottawa knows the Committee on Abuse in Residential School does good work.
It knows Whitehorse’s drop-in centre for residential school survivors needs funding to continue operating.
It knows there isn’t any.
And it doesn’t seem to care, said Larry Bagnell, Yukon’s MP.
He has raised the issue many times, he said, pushing for money to be re-allocated to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, which funded CAIRS and three other Yukon projects.
The national foundation was established in 1998 with $350 million and an 11-year mandate.
Funding dried up in April.
“We did everything you could conceivably think of,” Bagnell said, mentioning that even Chuck Strahl, former minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, said it did great work.
There was also a positive evaluation from the government.
But funding was cancelled.
So Bagnell made it a priority for the House of Commons Committee on Aboriginal Affairs.
The committee’s study, which involved a variety of witnesses, left few eyes dry, he said.
“In all my years as a politician I have never seen a program that had all positive evaluations, that all the witnesses said was positive, that everyone said was needed and should carry on, and the government’s own evaluation said it should be carried on, and yet the government cancelled it,” Bagnell said. “It’s just so sad and indefensible.”
But Bagnell hasn’t given up yet.
Monday, he will ask the government to prove how Health Canada has successfully dealt with the clients the healing foundation was dealing with.
When Ottawa said they wouldn’t continue funding the foundation, their main argument was that Health Canada would take over.
“Health Canada is providing good services, but it’s not the same type of aboriginal, community-based services provided by the healing foundation projects,” said Bagnell.
Those local, First Nation programs spent years gaining the trust of survivors who won’t normally trust the government, and the wounds of residential school will not heal over night, he added.
Bagnell is encouraging people to write letters.
John Duncan’s the new minister of Indian and Northern Affairs.
However, it is doubtful he will listen.
He was the parliamentary secretary – the government’s main contact – during the house committee’s hearings on the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.
Writing territorially is another option, Bagnell said.
“A lot of the people, if they don’t get the healing through organizations like CAIRS, they could end up in substance-abuse situations, in social assistance, in the hospital, in addiction facilities and that would cost the government of Yukon a lot more.”
Territorial Health and Social Services Minister Glenn Hart has already received a few letters.
He responded five months later, to one from the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations Ruth Massie.
In it, he said he was trying to work with officials in the territory and Ottawa.
On Thursday, Hart said he sent a letter to Ottawa last month to ask them to check into the situation to see if there would be funding for CAIRS.
“That’s the only commitment I’ve made,” said Hart.
It is obvious Bagnell is discouraged, but he mentions the upcoming budget debates and how he will definitely bring up this issue then.
“I’ll mention it any time I get a chance and see what the government’s answers are,” he said.
CAIRS’ doors were supposed to shut June 30. They are still open, but no one knows for how long.
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at