Kelsey Wavey and Tracey Nepinak in "Romeo and Juliet," part of MTYP's Aboriginal Arts Program (Leif Norman)
It's a place where local Aboriginal youth can find their voices and develop their talents. The Aboriginal Arts Training and Mentorship Program at Manitoba Theatre for Young People provides free classes in theatre, film and production. And with more than 500 students a year it's the largest of its kind in Canada.
But a federal funding freeze for aboriginal youth programs is threatening its future. On June 11, the Federal Government abruptly "froze" funding for Cultural Connections for Youth (CCAY). CCAY funds represents more than half of the funding for MTYP's Aboriginal Arts Program.
Columpa Bobb is the program director. She says she is appreciative of the funding because the program serves a demographic that is severely underprivileged. "It's going to take people in positions of power to recognize how much these children and young people value this program and stand behind it," she says.
The summer film camp at MTYP is going ahead as planned, but the fall program with 5-600 students is now in limbo.
Josh Ranville is a former student of the program who is now studying theatre in Vancouver at Langara College. He calls the news heartbreaking. "This program definitely lights that spark," he continued. "It gave me that push towards definitely moving in this direction. Without it, it would never have been the same."