Aboriginal Healing Foundation
In the 2010 Federal Budget. the government of Canada decided not to renew funding for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. The organization had to terminate partnership with over 120 community services that aid large populations of Aboriginal peoples who have suffered through traumas from the Indian Residential School System.
The 2010 budget concluded that $199 million would be directed towards Health Canada to continue to assist former students and their families who have experienced abuse in the Residential School System. But Aboriginal leaders assert that those programs are not as effective or unique in their purposes such as that of the AHF.
The Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF), as a community-driven and community-based organization, undertook projects such as addiction treatment, residential healing centres, counseling, on-the-land programs, parenting skills training, and women’s shelters. This work was complemented by the AHF’s comprehensive and internationally-recognized research agenda. The AHF is the only Aboriginal-managed funding agency mandated to support community-driven healing initiatives addressing the Indian Residential School’s intergenerational legacy.
The Conservatives announced in the 2010 federal budget that they would no longer support the AHF and its nation-wide community initiatives after March 31, 2010.
Justifying the decision, the Indian Affairs Minister, Chuck Strahl, said that “the foundation’s funding was never meant to last forever.”
This course of action provoked Aboriginal leaders from across the country to meet with the Prime Minister. On March 30, 2010, federal opposition leaders called for a rare emergency debate in the House of Commons, pleading to extend funds for this unique organization.
An additional $125 million grant was request but the government maintained its decision not to renew
funding. The money — $199 million — went instead to help Canada’s counsel students and survivors through a Health Canada plan. The government asserted it would provide better access for victims but Aboriginal leaders claimed that these programs would not be as effective since they were not as specific and unique as the AHF.
The cuts were spurred the circulation of a national petition to extend support for the AHF.
In the words of Lou Ann Stacey. interim executive director of the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal, one of AHF’s partners, “it’s sad because it’s [been] 10 years of gaining trust of women. and now we might not be able to support them..”
Dene National Chief, Bill Erasmus, stated that cutting funds violates the Residential School Settlement Agreement. which had been approved federally to compensate Aboriginal communities in the aftermath of residential schools. The termination of funds for the AHF contradicts the spirit of the apology given by Prime Minister Harper for the establishment of the Residential School System and further contradicts the Truth and Reconciliation Program. instituted by the government to provide Aboriginal families the opportunity to speak about their experiences with the help of healing programs.
Projects terminated, voices lost
Between the 2010 federal budget to the end of the foundation’s mandate in 2014, the organization has or will terminate more than 100 national initiatives, although eleven regional projects will continue. Without additional funding from the AHF, 125 projects have either terminated services completely or have lost a significant portion of funds but continue to run some programs with alternative funding, mainly from the government, according to AHF Executive Director Mike Degagn