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Urban Aboriginal Youth: An Action Plan for Change
The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples

October 2003


In cities all across Canada, existing services are failing to meet the needs of urban Aboriginal people:  that is the conclusion advanced by the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.  With respect to Aboriginal youth, the Commission noted that their needs were often “overlooked or underestimated by service agencies developing and delivering programs.”([1])  This fits the evidence presented to us.  Many Aboriginal organizations are not specifically or solely mandated to support the needs of youth.  An example; while friendship centres offer some programs for urban youth, their resources must stretch over a number of areas.  The result is an inadequate range and level of service for youth specific initiatives.  Yet the needs of youth are complex, multi-faceted and growing.  Most other Aboriginal service providers face an equally similar reality.

The evidence before this Committee also suggests that Aboriginal youth in urban areas are reluctant to use mainstream services, preferring instead to use Aboriginal community organizations as the primary service providers, or, in some instances, to act as intermediaries with mainstream agencies.  Much of the reluctance has to do with the historical legacy of discrimination toward Aboriginal peoples.

This section presents the major challenges facing program development and service delivery for urban Aboriginal youth:  the capacity of urban Aboriginal communities and young urban Aboriginals to tap into programs and services; the need for long term funding that overcomes the problems created by short term funding cycles; the need for taking a holistic approach; the provision of culturally appropriate programming; and, how mainstream service providers can identify programming gaps to better reach urban Aboriginal youth.


Key Principles for Effective Service Delivery

1.1  Support for Community-based Urban Aboriginal Initiatives

Witnesses held a general consensus that a “one size fits” all approach to service delivery will not effectively reach urban Aboriginal residents, including youth.  Overarching national or provincial goals are best met by having decisions on how to provide services agreed to by local communities and based on local circumstances and needs.

However, identifying and linking effectively with local urban Aboriginal communities can be problematic.  The difficulty in urban areas is to determine who speaks for the community and in fact what is the community.  According to one witness:

Another cause of the difficult policy and programming environment is the near absence of effective urban Aboriginal political and policy voices.  In many cities, urban Aboriginal people lack effective voices with which to participate in designing and implementing policies.  This is to some extent understandable, since urban Aboriginal people are not homogeneous.  Aboriginal people in every major city in Canada are drawn from any number of Aboriginal identities, nations and histories.  Since so many cultures and identities are represented in urban settings, it is not surprising when representation is contested or absent.([2])

But this is not to say that, despite difficult challenges, urban Aboriginal people should not be encouraged to identify their own community in the context of their various needs.  Moreover, we strongly believe that all levels of government should assist urban Aboriginal people develop their own solutions, rather than imposing them.  Governments need to acknowledge that urban Aboriginal people know what their problems are, that they are in a much better position to identify appropriate solutions, and know that they need adequate resources applied in accordance with their own priorities to implement locally developed initiatives.  That said, governments should not hold a purely passive funding role.  Urban Aboriginal communities should not be expected to find all the solutions to their problems which exist in the broader context of Canadian society.  Therefore, we strongly urge governments to acknowledge that community-designed initiatives are often more effective than programs developed in centralized government ministries.  Accordingly, in structural terms, government departments need to delegate to Aboriginal service providers the authority to customize services and react flexibly to local circumstances.

1.2  Involve Youth in Decision-making Processes

Aboriginal youth want meaningful engagement with, and participation in, the debate about their future, and in any potential solutions.  According to witnesses, it is critical that youth have a voice and sense of involvement and belonging in matters that affect them.([3])  Youth appearing before the Committee stressed the importance of being involved in the various aspects of program design, development and delivery.

Aboriginal youth want to be included in the debate, not as subjects but as full and equal partnered participants.  We do not want you to tell us what we should do.  We want you and our own leaders to work with us to find out what exactly we can do, how far we can go, how high we can reach, what walls we can knock down, what barriers we can stretch, what vistas we can surpass, and what wonders we can accomplish.  That is why we are here today.([4])

We believe the most important change you could and should recommend is that youth need to be involved in all aspects of program development and delivery.  We believe that projects that exist and are successful are that way because youth involvement has been maintained from start to finish.([5])

When youth hear about a government initiative, they would like to be consulted.  They would like to gather in a room to discuss the issue and to provide some input.([6])

Aboriginal agencies and political organizations observed:

An overview of the growing literature on best practice shows it is focused very much on governance, administration, systemic aspects of organizations and accountability.  One is that projects are most effective – and this was the number one thing our youth pointed out – when they are initiated and administered by youth.  That is now the number one priority in our board’s youth strategy:  We must have youth-accountable and youth-administered projects.([7])

As recommended in the Assembly of First Nations’ Urban Task Force Report, First Nations people, and more specifically First Nations youth, should design and deliver their own youth programs.  They are best suited to make them relevant, sustainable and culturally specific to our youth.([8])

1.3  Foster Community and Youth Capacity Building

Youth, however, should not be set up to fail.  Program and policy initiatives that are youth-driven will be most effective when partnered with or integrated into other community services and should involve the requisite input of elders, parents and mentors.

Finally, while greater efforts are being made to include youth in the development of policies and programs, this inclusion needs to be stabilized and entrenched in organizational structures and government processes.  Some positive trends are emerging.  More and more, Aboriginal organizations are establishing youth councils and youth advisory bodies.  In May 1998, Federal/Provincial/Territorial Ministers responsible for Aboriginal Affairs and national Aboriginal leaders agreed to develop a National Aboriginal Youth Strategy (NAYS).  The Strategy is intended to provide a framework to assist governments, institutions, and Aboriginal organizations in the development of policy and, design and delivery of programs and services for or accessed by Aboriginal youth.  Youth play an integral part in the NAYS.

While such measures are laudable, their reach is limited.  There exists a need to involve Aboriginal youth much more broadly at the grass-roots level.  Local community-based youth initiatives should ensure that youth input is obtained, and that youth are “part of the development, implementation, measurement and evaluation processes.”([9])  In this way, Aboriginal youth are mentored, empowered, and able to develop leadership skills in familiar and safe environments.

The expectation by governments that Aboriginal communities and youth will become increasingly involved in program and policy processes that affect them can place a heavy burden on the still comparatively small number of youth who have developed the skills and confidence to participate in such processes.  Governments need to provide youth with the ability to design and deliver programs, and give them the concomitant training and resources to do so.  It is crucial to strengthen the capacity of urban Aboriginal communities, and their youth, in order that they manage their interaction with government departments effectively and gain access to funding sources, rather than rely on a few overworked individuals.

Various witnesses identified the need to strengthen and encourage youth capacity building as part of an effective program development and service delivery model:

How can you access funds if you do not have the capacity to write a decent proposal or to do community mapping and the organization that you are working for is stretched to the limit?  They are stretched because so much is asked of them already for the funding they receive.([10])

We cannot reiterate enough that strategies that promote youth leadership skills and mentoring initiatives are crucial to developing this capacity.


1.4  Funding Certainty and Flexibility

A consistent complaint to the Committee is that funding for programs is too short to demonstrate successful outcomes.  The needs of youth are complex and short-term approaches are bound to fail.  Sustained and adequate funding is necessary to assist Aboriginal organizations within urban settings develop coordinated and holistic responses.  Witnesses suggested that funding cycles of limited duration materially restrict the ability of Aboriginal agencies to develop the long-term strategies required to address the needs of youth:

We have learned that it takes years to develop effective programs for native youth on the street.  Funders need to appreciate that kids are very damaged.  Robert was one of many who needed long-term service commitments.  One-shot projects of two years at a time, anything less than five years, do not constitute money well spent.  We should operate on the premise that the shorter the time frame of a given project, the less potential there is for effectiveness.([11])

For the most part, current youth programming receives only minimal and short-term funding.  It does not allow youth to focus on high-risk areas such as HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, violence, homelessness and sexual exploitation.  Funding must be made available for awareness and prevention programs around these issues.([12])

The projects that are funded are short-term projects, which does not allow us to implement long term plans.([13])

Subsistence on a revolving door of annual grants places an enormous administrative burden on Aboriginal organizations, which spend much of their year either completing complicated application forms for program funding or meeting reporting requirements to account for it.  Little time is allowed to the initiatives themselves, for them to become independent, or for urban Aboriginal people to build trust in a service.  We are not surprised that an ancillary complaint made by witnesses is that the federal government appears to fund a number of pilot projects, but not enough to sustain those that have demonstrated success.  Moreover, agencies must also be assured that once funding is approved, they do not experience unnecessary bureaucratic delays in accessing those funds .

Witnesses also identified a problem in having to fit their funding requests to suit pre-determined criteria.  As a result, agencies and organizations are often unable to apply for project funding that can be tailored to the specific needs of their community:

If we are going to avoid barriers in the future and help Aboriginal youth, we recommend strongly that funding agencies should be more flexible within their terms and conditions to ensure that programs can be innovative and focused more on the actual needs of the community – in this case of the youth – and not solely on the funding agency’s requirements.([14])

This issue resonates strongly with us:  programs should fit the need.  Funding agencies – be they federal, territorial or provincial – need to implement funding processes that are both flexible and sustainable.  In addition, in order to ensure that smaller agencies are able to access program funding, applying for grants must be simplified.([15])


1.5  Coordinated and Holistic Approach

Aboriginal youth have been poorly served by existing government program delivery models which stress services to individuals over holistic services to communities.  Taking a holistic approach means that the individual rather than the problem becomes the focus.  It recognizes that the well-being of youth cannot be divorced from the health of their communities and families.  A strong connection to community and culture – necessary to provide youth a sense of belonging and cultural identity – is essential to ensuring positive outcomes for youth.  We consistently heard that the needs of urban Aboriginal youth should not be considered in isolation from the needs of their families and communities, but rather be treated in a holistic way and integrated with programs that strengthen families.  Governments should, therefore, work against the fragmentation of services – an approach that has had little past success.  By contrast, community-strengthening strategies will buttress Aboriginal communities in their ability to support Aboriginal youth.

Ideally, a holistic approach would entail governments and departments pooling their resources, as distinct from simply coordinating them, so that interconnecting factors such as health, education, housing, and employment needs of individuals, families and communities can be met in a planned, structured and interconnected way.  Horizontal government initiatives would assist Aboriginal service providers better plan and coordinate services to youth.  The lack of program integration across sectors makes it difficult to respond comprehensively to the range of community needs:

[M]ost federal programs are designed to address a particular aspect of what is a very complex set of circumstances and rarely are our programs flexible to respond to respond to varying local challenges and opportunities.([16])

This response condemns such services to a “crisis intervention model” and weakens an Aboriginal community’s ability to provide an environment in which youth can thrive:

It is quite often a reality within the Aboriginal community that a host of organizations compete for very limited resources.  This makes the ability of one organization to provide holistic programming nearly impossible.([17])

Federal and provincial programs, which focus on an individual or specific aspect of an issue, have been criticized as operating within a silo mentality.  The result is a plethora of similar programs, different tiers of service delivery and a complex array of funding services.

Unsurprisingly there is enormous stress on Aboriginal organizations trying to access government funds to meet the needs of Aboriginal youth.  Applications for program funding can be extremely time-consuming.  The fragmented nature of government programs and funding requires Aboriginal agencies to spend a good deal of their time and energy filling out a multiplicity of grant applications chasing after program dollars for various government programs.  The result is that those agencies that can prepare the best grant application, rather than the one most in need, is often favoured.

From a client perspective, the confused programming landscape can lead to frustration and act as a barrier to individuals attempting to navigate these services, or when they do, lead to the receipt of disjointed and uncoordinated services.  We are particularly concerned that because of this “complex maze” of programming, youth find it difficult to access services because they have no clear idea of what is available to them.  One witness observed: 

A more structured, operational and functional system might help increase awareness among youth with whom they should interact or seek support from.([18])

From a governmental perspective, the lack of coordination can often result in expensive and unnecessary duplication of programs.  An environmental scan to determine what programs exist, where there is duplication across departments and organizations, where there are significant gaps in programming, as well as how best to maximize resources is urgently requi red.

The Committee recommends accordingly:

Recommended Action

·        The federal government must conduct a thorough review of programs available to Aboriginal youth, identifying gaps and duplication in programming.

·        The federal government establish and appropriately fund a national data base to act as a “clearing house” to collect, share, monitor and disseminate information on successful youth programs, initiatives, best practices and youth role models.

·        Governments, service providers, community organizations and youth should have access to the “clearing house.”

·        Based on the information collected, annual reports should be prepared to assist governments and service providers develop and support more effectively Aboriginal youth programming in urban areas.


1.6  Aboriginal Service Delivery

We were told repeatedly that Aboriginal organizations are best able to provide services to urban Aboriginal people.  For cultural reasons, many Aboriginal youth feel more comfortable accessing services from Aboriginal agencies and staff.  Several witnesses testified to feeling uncomfortable using mainstream services.  They feel the non-Aboriginal staff are often culturally unaware or disrespectful of Aboriginal cultures and practices, do not fully grasp their needs, and are negatively stereotyped.  According to one witness:

We will be raising a common theme that you have heard before.  These services – education, human resources and health – are best delivered in an Aboriginal environment in the urban Aboriginal community.  The Native Canadian Centre of Toronto and other such friendship centres and Aboriginal agencies throughout the country have very high success rates in the matters because we understand Aboriginal youth.([19])

Not surprisingly, Aboriginal youth prefer to access services delivered by Aboriginal agencies and staffed by Aboriginal people who are from the community, have similar backgrounds and a better appreciation of their needs.  In some instances, Aboriginal youth prefer that their peers, particularly with regard to certain aspects of sexual health, recreation, and street life, deliver programs.


1.7  Culturally Appropriate Programming and Status Blind Service Delivery

Witnesses appearing before the Committee were adamant that services delivered to Aboriginal people be culturally appropriate.  This Committee agrees:  based on the evidence heard, we feel strongly that Aboriginal youth will be best served by culturally appropriate programs, provided by culturally appropriate organizations.  The availability of such programs is especially important in urban areas, where youth, are most apt to feel cut off from their families, traditions and culture.

Text Box: This Committee feels strongly that Aboriginal youth will be best served by culturally appropriate programs, provided by culturally appropriate organizations.

No consensus emerged, however, with regard to whether services in urban area should be status-blind, that is targeted to all Aboriginal groups regardless of status, or whether services should be directed toward particular groups (i.e., Métis, First Nations or Inuit specific).  In its consideration of this issue, the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recognized that many Aboriginal people were opposed to status-blind delivery, but ultimately concluded that it was the most efficient use of scarce resources because it avoids duplication of services.

A recent survey conducted by the Canada West Foundation [November 2002], in which over 110 Aboriginal participants involved in urban Aboriginal policy-making and programming were interviewed, found that, among those interviewed, status-blind service delivery was recognized as achieving the best results.  In his appearance before this Committee, the author of that study suggested that:

Exclusive identity-based funding policies and programming can mean unnecessary and expensive duplication.  Working with one identity-specific group at a time can lead to many complications and negative outcomes.  Therefore, respect for the diversity seen in urban Aboriginal communities should take the form of policies and programming that have, when appropriate, specific cultural components for different Aboriginal nations.  At the same time, however, programming should be status blind – respectful of cultural traditions among Aboriginal people while being available to all urban Aboriginal people.  In addition, governments should encourage and reward cooperation by working with Aboriginal organizations that are willing to work with one another on urban issues.([20])

The Committee is of the opinion that given the diverse nature of the urban Aboriginal population and to avoid further splintering of programs, status-blind service delivery for the majority of programs is the most the efficient model of delivering services to Aboriginal people in urban areas.  We do, however, feel that certain programs, particularly those supporting cultural maintenance – such as language initiatives, support for cultural institutions and Aboriginal cultures in urban areas – should be promoted and targeted to specific groups.  Given the particular challenges Aboriginal people face in maintaining their culture and identity in urban environments, governments should support initiatives to promote Aboriginal cultures in urban areas.

1.8  Suggestions for Mainstream Service Providers

A number of cultural barriers may discourage Aboriginal youth from using mainstream services.  The historical legacy of discrimination and the accompanying feelings of distrust, shame and perceptions of prejudice by non-Aboriginal service providers, make many Aboriginal youth reluctant to access mainstream services.  Not surprisingly, in such circumstances, Aboriginal youth will seek out Aboriginal organizations staffed by Aboriginal people, whom they feel have a better understanding of their needs.

The Committee is concerned, however, that, in some instances, the needs of Aboriginal youth may go unmet if Aboriginal service providers do not have the resources to deal with the caseload and certain services are simply not available through them.  This is especially problematic in urban areas where culturally appropriate settings may not always be readily accessible.

Non-Aboriginal organizations can provide services to Aboriginal people when done in an appropriate fashion with Aboriginal workers.  The Committee believes that it is important for non-Aboriginal staff of mainstream agencies servicing a significant Aboriginal client base to undertake cross-cultural education.  In this way, non-Aboriginal staff are better able to develop an understanding of Aboriginal culture and history and therefore more likely to be empathetic when dealing with Aboriginal youth.

There is a need to encourage educators, employers, and support workers about the needs and differing issues impacting Aboriginal youth.  Initiatives need to be established to help these populations “get to know each other” and to learn about what is expected and/or anticipated of youth, and vice versa.([21])

There is an increasing recognition by non-Aboriginal service providers that when mainstream agencies are staffed by Aboriginal people, Aboriginal youth are more likely to access those services.  It may, however, not always be possible or feasible for mainstream agencies to employ Aboriginal staff.  In such cases, we believe an alternative approach is for such agencies to nominate an Aboriginal Liaison Officer to assist Aboriginal clients as well as undertake community outreach work aimed at building trust among youth for the service.  Every effort should be made to ensure that the individual acting as the Aboriginal Liaison Officer is Aboriginal.  Where this is not possible, appropriate cultural training should be provided to individuals .

The committee was struck by the success and uniqueness of an analogous initiative undertaken by the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce.  Under its Aboriginal Employment Initiative (AEI), the Director of the AEI, in this case a young dynamic First Nations woman acts as a liaison between the business community and Aboriginal community.  By encouraging communication between these two groups, the initiative hopes to build capacity within the Aboriginal community, meet the needs of labour, and foster better relationships.  Remarkably, it is the only initiative of its kind in the country.  


Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce:  Aboriginal Employment Initiative

Mission Statement:  To develop and implement strategic partnerships among the Manitoba business and Aboriginal communities to facilitate and promote employment of Aboriginal peoples in the province.

Initiated in March 2000 to promote new employment and economic opportunities for Aboriginal peoples, The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, Business Council of Manitoba (BCM), Manitoba Education and Training, and Aboriginal Human Resource Development Council of Canada (AHRDCC) have developed a strategic partnership in the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce Aboriginal Employment Initiative (AEI).

A first in Canada, this two-year pilot project was custom designed to assist Manitoba businesses to understand the benefits and business case of Aboriginal human resource strategies to increase employment and enhance retention of Aboriginal peoples in the workplace.

Under the stewardship of the Director, Aboriginal Employment Initiative, the project aims to:

·         develop partnerships between the business and Aboriginal communities leading to new employment and economic opportunities;

·         explore, access and support innovative employment and retention strategies;

·         promote information and resource initiatives that advance the Understanding of Aboriginal human resource development issues; and

·         identify, evaluate and promote career development information and training initiatives for Aboriginal peoples.

Creating linkages between Manitoba’s business and the Aboriginal communities was the starting point of the project.  Employers seeking to further develop and expand their Aboriginal workforce were facilitated with Aboriginal organizations providing services in preparing the Aboriginal peoples for employment opportunities.

The Committee believes strongly in the benefits of mainstream organizations building bridges between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities.  The importance of encouraging personal and long-term relationships with Aboriginal people as an effective means in breaking down some of the barriers that currently exist should not be underestimated.

While we cannot make recommendations outside of our jurisdiction, we offer the following observation:

Text Box: Committee Observation for Mainstream Service Providers

·	Non-Aboriginal organizations delivering federal services to a significant Aboriginal client base or which provide Aboriginal specific services, should strive to employ appropriately trained Aboriginal staff and provide non-Aboriginal staff with cross-cultural training.

·	Alternatively, where appropriate, non-Aboriginal organizations should attempt to ensure they have on staff at least one Aboriginal Liaison Officer to help foster confidence in, and awareness of, mainstream services.


1.9  Conclusion:  Key Principles for Effective Service Delivery

The preceding section of the report was based on suggestions witnesses made to us for enhancing the delivery of programs and services for urban Aboriginal youth and their communities.  Synthesizing that evidence, we were able to extrapolate a number of key principles for improving service delivery in urban Aboriginal communities upon which the Committee bases the following recommendation:

Recommended Action

The federal government should ensure the following principles are applied to programs that they fund for the delivery of services to urban Aboriginal youth:

·        Involve to the greatest extent possible urban Aboriginal youth or their appropriate representative organizations in the identification of needs, priority setting, program design and service delivery.

·        To the greatest extent possible, programs be developed locally with a high degree of Aboriginal youth involvement and ownership.

·        Funding be guaranteed with sufficient time as to allow the program to achieve its objectives.

·        There be flexible funding arrangements to minimize the administrative burden on participating Aboriginal organizations.

·        To the greatest extent possible, and where appropriate, funding be provided directly to urban Aboriginal service providers in order to lessen administrative costs;

·        Resources should be dedicated to Aboriginal youth capacity and leadership building.

·        Explore the potential for pooling program funding with any complementary federal programs, other levels of government or appropriate organizations.

·        Include evaluation processes that incorporate community feedback.

·        Identify the extent to which programs overlap or duplicate services provided by other levels of government and action proposed to address this, if required.

·        Where programs are delivered by mainstream agencies with a significant Aboriginal client base, strive to employ appropriately trained Aboriginal staff and provide non-Aboriginal staff with cross-cultural training.

·        Provide sustained funding for pilot projects that have demonstrated success and integrate these initiatives into departmental practice .


Service Delivery Reform:  The Importance of Partnerships

If the gap in life opportunities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal urban residents is to be closed, federal, provincial and municipal governments must commit themselves to an approach based on partnerships and shared responsibilities with Aboriginal communities; program flexibility; and coordination between government agencies with a focus on local communities and outcomes.  As one witness observed:

First, and most important, federal and provincial governments must be in urban Aboriginal policy together.  The two levels of government need to set aside their historical posturing about not being responsible so that they may formally accept their shared responsibility for urban Aboriginal policy.  Once that responsibility is accepted, institutionalizing intergovernmental coordination and cooperation will be much easier to do and will be much more effective.  In short, the federal and provincial governments need to cooperate on policy-making and programming, coordinate their efforts through common institutions and share the costs.([22])

The Committee feels strongly that governments in each jurisdiction must work together to develop formalized joint policy mechanisms aimed at breaking down the silos that have resulted in the fragmentation of services to Aboriginal:  One witness commented that:

Being horizontally challenged is a huge problem for governments.  Getting departments to break out of what is referred to as “stovepipes” and work together is a significant challenge for both the federal and provincial governments.  There is a limited degree of flexibility in some of these programs.  Particularly at the local level, when people identify an issue that can be improved upon, if it does not fit within the four corners of a program, there is nothing they can do.  We must find a way to be more cooperative across departments.([23])

The recent past has seen a number of promising initiatives that have sought to improve horizontal and vertical linkages within and between governments.  Some noteworthy examples include:

·        The Urban Aboriginal Strategy:  In 1998, the federal government launched its Urban Aboriginal Strategy in response to the pressing socio-economic needs of urban Aboriginal people.  The goal is to develop specific collaborative arrangements and agreements between the federal government, other governments, and local Aboriginal groups in order to better coordinate programs and services.  Relying on existing federal programs and services, the UAS also seeks to improve coordination within the federal government.  While the UAS was intended to be national in scope, it has only been implemented, to date, in the four western provinces and Ontario.  In 2003, the UAS was renewed for a two-year period, with $17 million allocated to pilot projects to explore new ways to better meet the needs of Aboriginal people living in urban areas.

·        Winnipeg Core Initiative:  The Winnipeg Core Area Initiative is a tripartite agreement by the provincial, federal and municipal governments to revitalize Winnipeg’s inner city and improve economic opportunities for inner-city residents.  Among other things, the Core Area Initiative provides industrial development support, housing incentives, and funding for training, employment and strategic capital projects for neighbourhood and community development.  Aboriginal people constitute a significant portion – sometimes a majority – of the populations of these neighbourhoods and have benefited greatly from the impact of such programs.  The levels of government have worked closely with the community – including a meaningful urban Aboriginal voice – on implementing programs that match local priorities.

·        The Edmonton Urban Aboriginal Affairs Committee:  The Edmonton Urban Aboriginal Affairs Committee (EUAAC) is one example of how municipal Aboriginal affairs committees could provide an effective mechanism for representing urban Aboriginal concerns.  The overall function of the Edmonton Aboriginal Urban Affairs Committee is to act as a catalyst to promote the awareness and development of all Aboriginal people in the City of Edmonton.  The EUAAC works with all levels of government, groups, and agencies that are addressing issues and concerns of Aboriginal people living in the City of Edmonton.  The Committee works to promote urban Aboriginal citizens, agencies, organizations, businesses, and Aboriginal civic involvement and participation.  It also advocates on behalf of urban Aboriginal people, and liaises with the Mayor and City Councillors through meetings, reports, and other projects and events throughout the y ear.

·        National Aboriginal Youth Strategy:  Federal/provincial/territorial and Aboriginal representatives participated in developing the National Aboriginal Youth Strategy (NAYS).  The NAYS is intended to provide a framework to assist government institutions and Aboriginal organizations in the development of policy, design and delivery of programs and services for, or accessed by, Aboriginal youth.

·        Calgary Urban Aboriginal Initiative (CUAI):  The Calgary Urban Aboriginal Initiative is a partnership involving federal, municipal, and provincial governments, Aboriginal organizations and service providers to address the lack of involvement by the urban Aboriginal community in policy and program planning development.  The CUAI attempts to work within existing organizations to minimize duplication of efforts.  Central to the success of this initiative is the willingness of governments to partner with one another and with Aboriginal organizations, and to recognize that the community must be meaningfully engaged.

Other notable initiatives include:

·        Canada and Manitoba worked cooperatively to establish the Single Window Initiative in Winnipeg and in Saskatchewan ASK-Sask, a virtual single window kiosk was developed to provide information on Aboriginal services and programs.  These initiatives are aimed at improving access to services;

·        Saskatchewan’s 2001 A Framework for Cooperation Policy Statement establishes a positive environment for provincial and federal cooperation; and

·        the 1999 Memorandum of Understanding signed between Canada and Manitoba to cooperate on urban Aboriginal issues .

What these measures show is that while federal and provincial governments continue to adhere to their jurisdictional positions, there is increasing recognition that solutions to urban Aboriginal issues will involve collaborative efforts among all levels of governments as well as the engagement of Aboriginal community representatives.

However, such initiatives, regardless of how promising they are, risk becoming ad hoc responses unless specific responsibility for policy leadership and action in this area is assumed.  Given Canada’s historic relationship to Aboriginal peoples, the Committee believes that the federal government should take a leadership role in representing urban Aboriginal populations and coordinating intergovernmental initiatives.

Accordingly, we recommend that:

Recommended Action

By virtue of its fundamental, constitutional and fiduciary relationship with Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples:

·        The federal government should take a leadership role in coordinating multi-lateral program and policy initiatives for urban Aboriginal people.

·        The federal government, through the Urban Aboriginal Strategy, should act to facilitate the development of formal intergovernmental mechanisms to address the broad policy concerns of urban Aboriginal people in Canada and break down existing silos in program development and service delivery.

·        Intergovernmental mechanisms must include and engage appropriate urban Aboriginal organizations.


Building on Success:  The Urban Multipurpose Urban Aboriginal Youth Initiative

Aboriginal organizations and youth spoke very highly of the federal government’s Urban Multipurpose Aboriginal Youth Centres (UMAYC) Initiative.  Across the country, we were told the UMAYC Initiative has provided youth with much needed resources to design and develop community-based initiatives that respond to their local needs.  Here are but a few examples of the praise we heard across the country for this initiative :

We recommend that the Urban Multipurpose Aboriginal Youth Centres, UMAYC, initiative be renewed for an additional five years to build upon its success to date.([24])

UMAYC resources were used to compliment and build on existing programs and initiatives while still adhering to UMAYC specific program guidelines.([25])

I want to talk about urban multi-purpose Aboriginal centre money, and how important it is to organizations like mine.  They are up for renewal this year so I would like the Senate to push that.  Continue with the UMAYC dollars – Urban Multi-purpose Aboriginal Youth Centre money.  I would really encourage the Senate to push that money through.  It is the saviour to Aboriginal youth.  It is something that helps us guarantee that all Aboriginal youth will join in these programs without having to be asked to leave because they do not belong to a certain Aboriginal group.([26])

The best-practices policies and programs in Montreal are the Urban MultiPurpose Aboriginal Youth Centre, which is based in the Friendship Centre, and the Montreal Aboriginal Youth Council.([27])

The UMAYC program was a blessing in disguise for more than just our project … That has given our people a lot more opportunity to get that extra service, extra help that they need in the community.  I applaud Canadian Heritage for getting this project going.  I do not know if Sheila Copps really knew what she did when she got this project going, but it has helped out the Aboriginal community a lot.  I applaud her for it.([28])

Our community relations and recruitment program has two unique programs that we are really proud of; both are funded by Canadian Heritage and UMAYC dollars.([29])

Urban Multipurpose Aboriginal Youth Centres, which is a wonderful example of pulling together the six best practice items I mentioned into a flexible format that is available in urban areas.([30])

The UMAYC Initiative incorporates several key principles and best practices for effective service delivery discussed above.  Notably, it is designed to be culturally appropriate; locally delivered and designed; flexible and responsive to local priorities; and developed in close collaboration with youth.

The UMAYC initiative was a five-year (1998-2003) $100 million federal commitment to improve the economic, social and personal prospects of urban Aboriginal youth by supporting the establishment of a network of urban multipurpose youth centres.  Funding for this initiative was recently renewed for an additional two years.

Witnesses registered two crucial reservations about the program.  First, that it was of limited duration .We know, however, that Aboriginal youth require sustained, rather than cyclic, efforts to address the many challenges they face.  The second complaint was that UMAYC funding was often slow in coming.  The delays in obtaining approved funding, we were told, created a number of hardships for service providers.  For instance, agencies were often faced with having to incur large bank fees in order to continue offering a program or service to its clients until such time as financing arrived.  Apart from the human costs, it is not in the public’s interest to have public monies wasted on bank service charges.

Despite these reservations, the UMAYC Initiative has met with great success in creating positive programming for Aboriginal youth living in cities.  Therefore, the Committee strongly believes that the federal government continue to support this initiative and build upon its success.

We recommend accordingly that:

Recommended Action

By virtue of the success of the Urban Aboriginal Multipurpose Aboriginal Youth Centre (UMAYC) Initiative and its importance to urban Aboriginal youth, the federal government, through the Minister of Canadian Heritage, should:

·        Continue its support for the UMAYC Initiative by committing sustained, long-term funding for the initiative.

·        Funding allocations for the UMAYC Initiative should be increased so that urban Aboriginal communities and youth are better able to build upon its successes.

([1])     The Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Urban Perspectives, 1996, Volume 4, Chapter 7, p. 563.

([2])     Proceedings, 17 June 2003, Mr. Calvin Hanselmann.

([3])     Proceedings, 16 April 2002, Ms. Jamie Gallant, Youth and Labour Market Intern, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples.

([4])     Proceedings, 16 April 2002, Ms. Jamie Gallant.

([5])     Proceedings, 11 June 2002, Ms. Ginger Gosnell, Youth Representative, Assembly of First Nations.

([6])     Proceedings, 4 June 2002, Ms. Jelena Golic, Youth Intervenor, Native Women’s Association of Canada.

([7])     Proceedings, 1 May 2002, Gail Valaskakis, Director of Research, Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

([8])     Proceedings, 11June 2002, Matthew Coon Come, National Chief, Assembly of First Nations.

([9])     Nova Lawson, Coordinator, Aboriginal Initiatives, Lakehead University, Submission, p. 20.

([10])    Proceedings, 11 June 2003, Ms. Ginger Gosnell.

([11])    Proceedings, 18 February 2003, Ken Richard, Executive Director, Native Child and Family Services.

([12])    Proceedings, 11 June 2002, Ms. Ginger Gosnell.

([13])    Proceedings, 17 March 2003, Winnipeg Aboriginal Youth Round Table, Mr. Jason Whitford, Regional Youth Coordinator, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

([14])    Proceedings, 5 February 2003, Mr. Leonzo Barreno, Director, Aboriginal Youth Leadership Development Program, Saskatchewan Indian Federated College.

([15])    Proceedings, 17 June 2003, Mr. Calvin Hanselmann.

([16])    PCO, Urban Aboriginal Strategy:  An Analysis, p. 15.

([17])    Proceedings, 23 April 2002, Gerald Morin, President, Metis National Council.

([18])    Nova Lawson, Submission, p. 24.

([19])    Proceedings, 5 February 2003, Mr. Robert Adams, Executive Director, Native Canadian Centre of Toronto.

([20])    Proceedings, 17 June 2003, Mr. Calvin Hanselmann.

([21])    Nova Lawson, Submission, p. 12.

([22])    Proceedings, 17 June 2003, Mr. Calvin Hanselmann.

([23])    Proceedings, 27 November 2001, Mr. Fred Caron, Assistant Deputy Minister, Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat, Privy Council Office.

([24])    Proceedings, 30 April 2002, Ms Jaime Koebel, President, Aboriginal Youth Council, National Association of Friendship Centres.

([25])    Proceedings, 23 April 2002, Mr. Gerald Morin, President, Métis National Council.

([26])    Proceedings, 12 February 2003, John Potskin, Director, Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth.

([27])    Proceedings, 26 March 2003, Mr. Eric Ravenelle, Secretary, Board of Directors, Native Friendship Centre of Montreal.

([28])    Proceedings, 21 March 2003, Mr. Lyle Donald, Coordinator, Métis Cultural Dance Society.

([29])    Proceedings, 21 March 2003, Mr. Lewis Cardinal, Director of Native Student Services, University of Alberta.

([30])    Proceedings, 1 May 2002, Ms. Gail Valaskasis, Director of Research, Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

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