Funding cuts hurt Vernon friendship centre

Organization hopes public pressure will lead to action from the federal government

The Vernon First Nations Friendship Centre provides a number of programs to urban natives.

The Vernon First Nations Friendship Centre provides a number of programs to urban natives.

The Vernon First Nations Friendship Centre continues to struggle.

Federal funding for core services was halted in March, and despite ongoing discussions, the situation has not changed.

“The full stoppage of core-like funding, and a significant change in criteria of what may be covered, has a significant impact on the First Nations Friendship Centre in Vernon, said Patricia Wilson, executive director.

The board downsized operations and moved its employment services to the main office for more efficient service delivery.

However, the Okanagan and Training Development Corporation, which funds employment assistance services through Service Canada, also cut two positions which resulted in layoffs when the office was amalgamated.

“The board is hopeful that OTDC will revisit its decision and return the two positions so we can continue to be the highest servicing First Nations employment office in the region, says Val Chiba, president of the Vernon Friendship Centre.”

With no core funding the Friendship Centre has laid off administration assistant and two positions responsible for youth programs.

“It is essential to provide consistent programs to keep youth engaged,” said Wilson.

“As it sits, if the funding for youth is not sustained, the board will continue to work to achieve other sources of funding such as the Tiny Home fundraiser project. However, if is no core funding is secured from the federal government by June 30, the board has a contingency plan in place that will result in forced re-organization and the loss of two more positions.”

The Friendship Centre is seeking letters of support from North Okanagan health and social service agencies and individuals.

“We have a letter writing campaign underway to Carol Bennett, minister of indigenous and northern affairs, to see if she can affect positive change for urban aboriginals and keep the funding support for the Friendship Centre at a suitable level to keep stable the organization’s ability to operate a very successful and low-cost operation.”

In the fiscal year 2015/16, the centre employed 35 staff who delivered 30 programs and services.