There was a Q&A period between Michael Ignatieff and various representatives of women’s orgs in Montreal today, a Women’s Policy meeting. He was basically spouting a lot of @##%^^ about a lot things: how Canada has been standing by Haiti for decades, how Canada is a leading example in terms of peacekeeping, etc. I tried to ask a question numerous times, but was not called upon. A couple of questions were asked about First Nations women, one of which was by Nakuset, executive director of the NWSM (Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal) asking that Ignatieff bring the Shelter’s case to parliament, because if the funding cuts take effect (starting March 31st), than 3 key employees at the Shelter will lose their jobs, 2 of which are Native women, and many women will lose access to the services now provided. The Shelter has been receiving funds for the last 10 years and did not expect them to be cut at all. They found out about the cuts by looking on the budget website.
Basically what the Harper government has done is massively cut the Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF), which accounts for about a 1/3 of the funds that the NWSM requires to provide services to Native women in Montreal. Not only is this huge, but as a result of across-the-board cuts to the AHF, 134 community projects across Canada will no longer provide cultural healing services to Indigenous people.
Ignatieff said he would bring up the NWSM’s request to reinstate their funding at parliament next week. But–he also said that he would not call for a public inquiry into the hundreds of unsolved cases; instead, he said he supported a “national investigation” that would better provide individual families with forensics information. When asked if that meant he did not believe an actual inquiry was necessary to look into the endemic racism present in Canadian society, he said only that he was ashamed that there are over 500 of such cases in Canada.
I interviewed and spoke to Nakuset after the event, and will be in touch with her again in the near future.
March 31st is very soon, and if the NWSM does get their funding back (fingers crossed that they do!), there are also 134 other orgs facing the same loss. I am thinking: Emergency Demo, denouncing the government’s hypocrisy (The $199 million promised to address the legacy of residential schools has not been committed to the AHF, and similarly, the $10 million ambiguously allotted to addressing the problem of missing and murdered Indigenous women has not been committed to NWAC’s Sister’s in Spirit campaign, to my knowledge). I would like to speak more with Nakuset about what they feel is a good course of action over the next 2 weeks, but their briefing does indicate that they want to network with the other 134 groups.
Missing Justice (missingjustice.ca) is thinking on organizing (or co-organizing) a demo before the 31st if the NWSM approves, and if this occurs, we will need to make as much use of our diversity of networks as possible. I really feel strongly that this is outrageous and scandalous and deserves to be treated as such.
The 134 projects to have their AHF funding cut: click here to see list
A petition demanding that the AHF’s funding be reinstated: click here to sign
Executive Director of NWSM, Nakuset.