OTTAWA, June 18 /CNW Telbec/ - Today, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn At-in-chut Atleo called on the federal government to support the recommendations of a new report by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (AANO) which says the Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF) should be funded for three more years.
A three-year extension would allow the AHF to support 134 community-based programs across Canada that provide First Nation-driven, community based healing and health supports to those impacted by the Indian Residential School system for the duration of the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement.
"First Nations communities and families are concerned that Aboriginal Healing Foundation projects are closing at a time when they are most needed. Compensation processes and the launch of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will create a rising need for health supports in our communities," said National Chief Shawn At-in-chut Atleo. "It is our hope that this latest report signals a growing recognition by all parties that the continuation of First Nations driven community health supports are critical to supporting Survivors and their families through the next three years of the settlement process."
The National Chief noted that a renewal of the program would be consistent with the 2008 federal Apology to Indian Residential School Survivors and the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement.
"Powerful emotions are sometimes triggered by the various processes Survivors and their families have to go through - such as applying for the Common Experience Payment, or the statement taking activities of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission," said AFN Regional Chief Bill Erasmus who holds the national portfolio for Indian Residential Schools. "The community-based healing support offered by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation cannot be replaced by individualized services offered through outside agencies."
The latest report by AANO is the second government report to recommend continued funding to the AHF. An earlier independent evaluation of the AHF commissioned by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), and released in March - one day after the federal budget - recommended that the Government of Canada should renew support for the AHF, "at least until the Settlement Agreement compensation processes and commemorative initiatives are completed." The evaluation report also stated that "healing has only just begun" in communities and warned that ending the AHF healing projects at this point could have extremely negative consequences.
However, a proposal to complement current funding levels of the AHF in order to enable the continuation of existing community projects was not approved within the budget. Health Canada has stated that they will try to fill the gaps for health supports in communities; however regions such as Manitoba, Yukon, PEI and Quebec have been left without community-based healing projects.
"Without the Aboriginal Healing Foundation communities and Survivors are losing the ability to design projects tailored to their needs and will also lose a level of self-governance and capacity-building in healing processes that is not achievable through federally-run programs," said AFN Regional Chief Angus Toulouse who holds the national portfolio for health.
Both the original evaluation and the most recent report by AANO state that there is a rising need for services created by the settlement process, including the launch of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the ongoing compensation processes. In its last year, the AHF saw a substantial increase (average 40 percent) in its program enrolments, but was often unable to meet the growing demand because of a less than adequate funding base for the past three years.
The Aboriginal Healing Foundation provides resources to Aboriginal communities that promote reconciliation and support in building and reinforcing sustainable healing processes that address the legacy of physical, sexual, mental, cultural and spiritual abuses in the residential school system, including intergenerational impacts. It has operated 1,345 quality projects since its inception in 1998.
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.
SOURCE Assembly of First Nations
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