Budget cuts will hinder native healing

Aboriginal women and children will bear the brunt of federal budget cuts to native abuse healing services, a Montreal shelter director warns.

Aboriginal women and children will bear the brunt of federal budget cuts to native abuse healing services, a Montreal shelter director warns.

But if the federal government is serious about supporting aboriginal efforts to deal with the legacy of abuse in residential schools, it will reconsider the $350-million cuts, said Lou Ann Stacey, interim executive director of the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal.

The federal budget didn't renew funding for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, which, since its inception in 1998, has financed community-based First Nations programs that address abuse suffered in Canada's residential school system.

The federal budget does commit $199 million to mental health and emotional abuse support services for former residential school students and their families, but that money will be funnelled to programs run by Health Canada.

The foundation finances about 134 community-based healing initiatives for Inuit, First Nations and Métis across Canada, including the Montreal shelter.

All the progress that has been made is now jeopardized, Stacey said. "I think my heart broke," when funding cuts were announced earlier this month, she said.

The Montreal shelter alone serves some 200 women every year, many of whom have suffered physical and sexual abuse linked to their past in Canada's residential schools.

It's not clear whether the shelter will be able to continue that work.

"It's sad, because it's [been] 10 years of gaining the trust of women, and we got them believing that there's a better way of life for them, and now we might not be able to support them, or continue to do things that we've been able to do up until now," Stacey said.

The shelter will have to lay off three employees who worked directly with women, she added.

Other community groups that relied on funding from the foundation are also scrambling, Stacey said.

The shelter has launched a petition, pleading with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reinstate the money.

Politicians in Nunavut are also lobbying the government to reconsider the cuts, which take effect at the end of March.

The Aboriginal Healing Foundation is a private not-for-profit corporation established in 1998 with a $350 million grant from the federal government.  


  • A previous version of this story reported that the Aboriginal Healing Foundation was created through the Residential School Truth and Reconciliation program, whereas it was actually funded by a federal government grant.
    Mar 17, 2010 3:05 PM ET