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Aboriginal children’s programs in B.C. braced for funding cuts

First Nations Child and Family Wellness Council (FNCFWC) co-chairs Beverley Clifton-Percival, right, and Chief Bob Chamberlain, centre, hold a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday January 22, 2014. The FNCFWC says decisions made by the B.C. government's Ministry of Children and Family Development endangers First Nations children. They also spoke out about 18 Aboriginal initiatives that were cut by the ministry.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

Eighteen aboriginal community-based programs will lose their funding by the end of this month as the Ministry of Children and Family Development acts on an explosive report that found the government had sunk $66-million over the past dozen years into such programs with no demonstrable benefit for children in care.

"It's like the Charlie Brown and Lucy football kick," said Chief Robert Chamberlin, co-chair of the First Nations Child and Family Wellness Council. "They've yanked it away just as we were really getting ready to deliver services."

Children's representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond issued her scathing report in November after auditing federal and provincial spending on the programs since 2001.

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"There has been a significant amount of money spent on talking, on endless meetings without any tangible results," she said at the time.

But Mr. Chamberlin said Ms. Turpel-Lafond never took a first-hand look at the programs that are being cut later this month. The programs were aimed at providing culturally appropriate services.

"We have been in touch with Mary Ellen," said Mr. Chamberlin. "She acknowledges that she has not spoken with any of the Indigenous Approaches programs. We suggest that if she is going to continue to report on First Nations, she at least give us the courtesy of speaking with us face to face."

Ms. Turpel-Lafond said Wednesday she had met with some organizations and also thoroughly reviewed their records. She said if communities are providing efficient services, then they should continue to receive funding.

"I don't see why the ministry wouldn't continue to support them. I certainly support them, but we have to actually see people receive services, or at least in a reasonable amount of time."

The Indigenous Approaches programs were first developed in 2009, receiving up to $600,000 each per year to provide a variety of services to children and families, but Ms. Turpel-Lafond found there were few measures to gauge whether the money was being spent appropriately.

Still, Mr. Chamberlin said the move to cut funding means 84 First Nations communities won't have a community-based service provider for families that need one.

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Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux said the money to fund service providers is there, but the province is required to ensure it's being spent in a way that benefits the direct care for children.

"I'm responsible and mandated to make sure that children in the province are getting the services that they need," she said. "As such, I make decisions to make sure the funding within the ministry goes to support those services."

The ministry pledged to send templates out to all of the organizations in the Indigenous Approaches program so they can apply for further funding.

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