Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavik October 26, 2016 - 7:00 am

Quebec launches fund to support urban Indigenous groups

"We must respond to the evolving needs"

SARAH ROGERS
Makivik Corp. already funds a case worker position for Inuit women who use the facilities of the day shelter, Chez Doris in downtown Montreal. The Quebec government has announced a new fund for urban organizations which offer support services to vulnerable Aboriginal groups. (FILE PHOTO)
Makivik Corp. already funds a case worker position for Inuit women who use the facilities of the day shelter, Chez Doris in downtown Montreal. The Quebec government has announced a new fund for urban organizations which offer support services to vulnerable Aboriginal groups. (FILE PHOTO)

The Quebec government has made good on a promise to spend money on support programs for Indigenous communities living in the province’s cities.

The province launched its Urban Aboriginal Support Program fund Oct. 17, $8.9 million over five years, to be made available to organizations that service First Nations and Inuit populations.

The funds aim to reach what the province describes as a “vulnerable and rapidly growing clientele,” targeting organizations that “offer direct services that are culturally relevant and reassuring to meet the needs of Aboriginal [groups] living in vulnerable situations in our cities,” said an Oct. 17 release.

“The number of Aboriginal [groups] living in urban areas is increasing and we must respond to the evolving needs emerging from this reality,” said Geoffrey Kelley, the Quebec minister of Aboriginal Affairs, in the release.

Montreal is home to one of the country’s largest urban Inuit populations: Statistics Canada’s 2011 census counted 900 Inuit living in the city, but local organizations that work with Inuit estimate that number is closer to 1,500.

Donat Savoie, who works with Nunavik’s Makivik Corp. on its out-of-region programming, says there is a continuous migration of Inuit moving to the city from Nunavik and also parts of Nunavut.

Some seek education or work; some are driven south by the overcrowded housing in the North, while others are incarcerated in Montreal-area detention centres and opt to stay south once released.

It’s also estimated that Montreal Inuit comprise roughly a third of the city’s homeless population, creating a need for support and integration services for Inuit.

“This new funding is very welcome,” Savoie said. “It’s not a ton of money, but it’s important that the funding stretches over five years.”

Through Nunavik’s Ungaluk crime prevention fund, Makivik already invests roughly $250,000 a year into a number of support programs through the city, including Inuit-specific case workers and drop-in programs.

The need is clearly there—a report Makivik prepared in 2012 found that the most vulnerable of Montreal’s Inuit community want to stay in the city and integrate, but require support to do that.

Savoie hopes this new funding will translate into expanded services for Montreal Inuit, including better job training support and cultural programming that can benefit all Inuit in the city.

Inuit and other Indigenous organizations can submit their funding applications directly to Quebec’s Secrétariat aux affaires autochtones which is administering the new program.

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