Nova Scotia

Permanent funding sought for Mi'kmaq women's centre

The resource centre in Sydney, N.S., works with Mi'kmaq women who are homeless, in the sex trade, or are addicted to alcohol and drugs.

Centre in Sydney serves women who are homeless, work in the sex trade, or are addicted to drugs and alcohol

The centre serves a clientele of 30 women. (Yvonne LeBlanc-Smith/CBC)

The Nova Scotia Native Women's Association continues to try to secure permanent funding for a Mi'kmaq women's centre it operates in Cape Breton.

The Jane Paul Centre in Sydney offers services and programs for close to 30 clients, some as young as 15 years old. Some of the women are homeless or work in the sex trade.

"We have a lot of Native women who have no place to go, or they are trying to get away from abusive relationships or some are struggling with addictions" said Rod Googoo, chief of Waycobah First Nation, near Baddeck.

Googoo and the four other First Nations chiefs in Cape Breton each contribute $4,000 annually toward rent on the building at 440 George St.

"We have been doing this for years," he said. "We have always looked after the rent for the centre and helped them out whatever way we can."

The president of the Nova Scotia Native Women's Association, Lorraine Whitman, acknowledges the support of the chiefs.

"The respect is there. They are with us and they are on board," she said.

Not much time

The centre operates on shoe-string budget, with no core funding.

A $40,000 grant in February 2017 from the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women helped pay for a full-time co-ordinator and services including employment counselling, a needle exchange program, food and a clothing depot.

That money runs out at the end of March. While more provincial funding is not out of the question, there's been no commitment either.

Department of Community Service spokesperson Bruce Nunn said in an email that when the money was provided last year, it was made clear to the centre that it was a one-time only grant to help build capacity to attract other funding.

Nunn said provincial officials met with the Nova Scotia Native Women's Association recently to discuss the needs of the centre and to explain that a sustainability plan was required before another funding request would be reviewed.

Whitman could not say whether such a plan has been completed, but reported the Nova Scotia Native Women's Association is working with various organizations to try to secure more funding.


Yvonne LeBlanc-Smith was born and raised in Cape Breton. She began her career in private radio in Sydney and has been with CBC as a reporter, early morning news editor and sometimes host since 1990.