British Columbia

Province provides $5M for Indigenous communities to develop their own safety planning programs

B.C.'s Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced Monday it would provide $5.34 million to Indigenous communities and organizations to help end violence against Indigenous people, in particular women and girls.

Fund advances priorities identified in final report of national inquiry into MMIWG, government says

Barb Ward-Burkitt, the chair of the Minister’s Advisory Council on Indigenous Women and a longtime advocate, at a homeless camp in 2021. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

B.C.'s Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced Monday it would provide $5.34 million to Indigenous communities and organizations to help end violence against Indigenous people, in particular women and girls.

The B.C. government's decision to put a fund for Indigenous safety planning in the hands of an Indigenous-led organization was hailed as a step toward reconciliation for the province.

The province will provide the funds to the B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC) to manage and distribute grants to Indigenous organizations under the Path Forward Community Fund. 

Projects that are eligible for the grants include support for hosting planning sessions, culturally appropriate safety training and healing and cultural supports. 

Barb Ward-Burkitt, a longtime advocate and chair of the minister's Advisory Council on Indigenous Women, says the money will provide opportunities to develop programs and services specific to communities and she expects a variety of initiatives.

"Many friendship centres … have really good working relations with the First Nations that are around their urban communities," said Ward-Burkitt. 

Leslie Varley, the executive director of the B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres, says it is an opportunity to develop provincewide help for Indigenous women and girls.

The B.C. government says the fund advances priorities identified in the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls as well as its commitments in a 2019 plan to end violence against Indigenous people.

Varley says Indigenous women and girls have been the targets of violence by those who have preyed on their colonial poverty when they should have been protected.

"Until now, we've had to go through mainstream organizations to protect and support our women and girls,'' she said. "That clearly hasn't worked for us.''

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michelle Gomez is a CBC writer in Vancouver. You can contact her at michelle.gomez@cbc.ca.

With files from the Canadian Press

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