Thursday, March 19, 2015

Community consultation examines issues and services for First Nation and Metis people in Alberta

Shelly Anderson
T. Lucas file photo
Toni Lucas

Shelly Anderson of Edmonton firm In Synch Consulting Inc. facilitated a Community Consultation meeting at Napi Friendship Centre on Wednesday, January 14, with a follow up session on Wednesday, March 11. Pincher Creek was one of her many stops across Alberta. The purpose of these meetings in various communities was to gather current detailed information collected through Alberta Native Friendship Associations to be used at municipal, provincial and federal levels of government regarding aboriginal and Metis people.

Anderson has been creating a database of aboriginal and Metis populations, their needs and challenges across communities, and what services are currently available for them to access.

 "Aboriginal people are coming around here, and if they are coming here they are going to need program and service delivery," Anderson said at the most recent meeting in Pincher Creek.

"We are talking about a population of 6,340," Anderson said of Pincher Creek and area. "400 of them have self identified as being aboriginal." She said Pincher Creek's population is 6.31% aboriginal. Once she included a 200 km radius in her calculation, it includes the populations of the Blood Tribe, Piikani Nation, and Tsuu T'ina Nation.

"People can come from all over Canada," Anderson said talking about Pincher Creek area, "But they are not sticking around for anything more than six months," She queried the audience "Do we know why?" Lack of housing and jobs that will support them were the two major responses.

Town Councillor Lorne Jackson said, "We are working on the housing crunch, and we are working on some community housing initiatives." He said that it is difficult as they do not have accurate numbers. "If you don't know your target, it's pretty hard to lobby the government for funding."

Another issue that was touched on was the brain drain of younger people leaving to get an education or jobs elsewhere, and not returning during their primary working career. Jackson said "Once they get through University, the opportunities are in the major centers for high end employment."

Anderson checked to see if the information she had compiled about current opportunities, programs, services, challenges, and barriers faced by aboriginals in Pincher Creek was accurate. One of the notes that Anderson had from her previous consultation session said that Aboriginal people did not get any benefit from programs or services in Pincher Creek, and Councillor Jackson challenged that statement. He mentioning recreational services, public services, and agencies including the McMan Agency and the Women's Shelter. Anderson agreed, and said that she will change the wording to include the word 'perceived'. "Really, (if) the perception is that, that is a barrier, in and of itself."

Pincher Creek Napi Friendship Association Youth Coordinator Abby Morning Bull said "It's a historical thing. There has been racial tension in this town, for a long time."

"I think there is deeper underlying issues when it comes to trust, and trusting one another, and trust in leadership." Morning Bull said that there are some success stories coming out of reserves, but she hears more about the social issues.

Piikani Child and Family Services Representative Roberta Yellow Horn said she would like to see a brainstorming and visioning session that included both Piikani and Pincher Creek representatives, to address individual and shared concerns, such as the brain drain "To have a sustainable plan for the future, create initiatives."

A couple of goals for these talks was to gather data and open the lines of communication for further networking and partnerships.  A final report will be made available to Napi Friendship Associations when completed.

*Addendum:  This is part of the plan and priority creation of the New Urban Aboriginal Strategies programming.  

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