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Social advocates face funding cuts

The government is trying to silence the voices of those who advocate for social change, warns the NDP Opposition.

The government is trying to silence the voices of those who advocate for social change, warns the NDP Opposition.

Earlier this month, Health and Social Services Minister Doug Graham said that he has directed his department to move funding away from groups that provide advocacy, but not services.

NDP leader Liz Hanson called the move “chilling” in an interview.

“We think that as much as advocacy can be challenging at times, political change, social change doesn’t happen without it. And I think that government has to be open to listening and engaging.”

Graham has responded that he is simply moving funds to where they are most in need.

“We have only so many dollars we can spend to provide services for people in need throughout this territory,” he said in the legislature on May 13. “We are attempting, with this direction, to utilize the limited number of resources we have available to provide services to reach the highest number of clients that we possibly can.”

The effort will not target advocacy groups that also provide services, but only those that provide no services whatsoever, said Graham. He said the list of potentially affected groups is “not large.”

A government spokesperson said that no groups have been singled out for funding cuts at this point.

But Hanson worries the overhaul will promote Band-Aid solutions to big social problems, she said.

And why target organizations under Health and Social Services, when the government funds a broad range of groups across the government departments? asked Hanson.

“If you look at the non-government organizations that are funded by government of Yukon, it’s quite extensive,” she said. “It goes from the Yukon Mine Advisory Board to the Gold Alliance to the Anti-Poverty Coalition to Second Opinion Society. There’s a spectrum here, and so, do you apply the same lens to all?”

The government has not yet indicated if this new direction applies to all departments or only to Health and Social Services.

The Yukon Party’s social policies are based on ideology, rather than evidence, said Hanson.

She gave the example of the government’s resistance to a Housing First model for helping the territory’s most needy.

In that model, the homeless addicts are given shelter, no questions asked, in hopes that with secure housing they will be better equipped to address their other problems.

“How many times do we have to have folks come here from Red Deer or Calgary or Lethbridge to talk about what they’ve achieved from an economic point of view - the savings in the emergency ward, the savings in social expenditures?” asked Hanson.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at