EDMONTON — Funding cuts imposed by Premier Jason Kenney will mean the end of support programs that have helped indigenous students, parents and families for decades.
Ben Calf Robe Society in Edmonton was informed in November it will lose $360,000 in provincial funding for the Awasis program at Prince Charles School, the Papoose and Parent program, and a family resource program. Four people will lose their jobs as a result.
“The Awasis program has provided crucial support to children and families at Prince Charles School for decades,” said Sarah Hoffman, Official Opposition Critic for Education and MLA for Edmonton-Glenora. “It is incredibly short-sighted and cruel to take that help away from families that are living with complex challenges and adversity just to pay for a $4.7-billion corporate handout.”
Awasis provides Indigenous-focused supports, referrals, clothing and food hampers. They also operate the Rainbow Program, with specialized counselling for grief and loss.
“You can’t imagine all the things that come about in life.” said Shauna Desjarlais, whose children have all attended Prince Charles School. “Without Awasis and the Rainbow Program, I don’t think the kids would have been able to express themselves or get through it. It’s tough to take a kid to a counsellor who’s a stranger. These are friendly faces they see every day.”
“We were told these programs don’t fit with the government’s new framework,” said Claudette Dewitt, executive director of Ben Calf Robe Society. “This is definitely going to impact families, students, teachers, the whole school, and the workers.”
“These cuts to the Ben Calf Robe Society are part of a larger pattern of UCP cuts to indigenous organizations across Alberta,” said Richard Feehan, Official Opposition Critic for Indigenous Relations and MLA for Edmonton-Rutherford. “Jason Kenney is pushing Indigenous people out of work and preventing them from accessing the services that support communities.”