First Nations kids fight to fund annual canoe journey
Federal budget freeze a blow to programs for aboriginal youth
BY RANDY SHORE, VANCOUVER SUN JUNE 25, 2012
Thirty first nations youths are throwing together an emergency fundraiser to help pay for their annual summer canoe trip after federal budget cuts yanked $100,000 from their program.
Members of the Renfrew-Collingwood Aboriginal Canoe Club will hold a silent auction of their own art works and crafts Thursday to try to replace some of the lost funds.
"Club members were shocked at the sudden withdrawal of the grant," said club member Matthew Sheena in a release. "But we decided that this journey is just too important to miss so we're using our skills to help raise money for the journey ourselves."
The group of teens and young adults spends time on weekends and some weekday evenings training for a nine-day camping and salt water canoe trip, in addition to learning traditional arts in classes funded by the Cultural Connections for Aboriginal Youth Program.
The federal Treasury Board froze funding for the $22 million program last week, cutting off $100,000 in funds to Renfrew-Collingwood's program retroactive to April 1, according to Collingwood neighbourhood house executive director Jennifer Gray-Grant.
While some aboriginal programs have simply shut down, the neighbourhood house has been pulling funds from other programs to keep the canoe trip alive.
"This would be the ninth annual Pulling Together trip and it really is the highlight of their year, we couldn't shut it down," said Gray-Grant.
The Pulling Together Journey is an annual vision quest in which first nations youth and B.C. Mounties and police officers paddle a flotilla of 30 traditional canoes down the coast visiting aboriginal communities.
The silent auction and fundraiser will be held at Collingwood Neighbourhood House, 5288 Joyce Street, from 5 to 8 p.m., June 28.