Heidi Marion, co-director of the Yukon Status of Women Council, cheers during her speech at a rally to support non-governmental organizations outside the legislature building in Whitehorse on March 7. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Supporters rally for local NGOs

Dozens of people attended on the first day of the legislative sitting

A rally to support non-governmental organizations (NGOs) Many Rivers and Kaushee’s Place was held Mar.7 at the legislative assembly, timed to coincide with the first day of the sitting.

Around 30 to 40 people attended, sporting signs and wearing t-shirts with slogans like Proud Yukon Feminist and Proud NGO Supporter.

The rally organizers included the Friends of Many Rivers Society, which has been working to help the workers of that mental health services organization during the strike, which began in November 2018 and lasted until January 2019. Workers had been back to work less than a month when the organization was found in non-compliance with the Societies Act, causing it to lose its funding as a not for profit.

Workers were promptly laid off and the services they provide the community, including free counselling and mental health services, stopped again.

“We are all shocked and deeply concerned that this has gotten so dire,” said Max Fraser, an organizer with Friends of Many Rivers, adding that the response from the government to the halt in affordable mental health care services was “tragically slow.”

People who need these services, “should be getting this service today, not waiting months,” while the society’s compliance and funding gets worked out, he said.

“We can’t wait for all this societies stuff to be processed.”

Even if the society is reinstated and funding resumed, he added, the board of directors is suspect.

“Can we trust (the board) with our money, can we trust them to deliver this service?”

Rally-goers were also attending for Kaushee’s Place, which provides services and transitional housing for women fleeing domestic violence in the community. That organization says it is chronically underfunded by the government and “may not make (its) next quarter” unless something is done.

Minister of Health and Social Services Pauline Frost and Minister of Community Services John Streicker have agreed to a meeting with the not-for-profits to discuss concerns, said Fraser.

Fraser, along with fellow rally-organizers Barbara McInerney, executive director of Kaushee’s Place and Heidi Marion, co-director of the Yukon Status of Women Council, strongly encouraged attendees and concerned citizens to contact their local MLAs.

Contact Lori Fox at lori.fox@yukon-news.com

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