Conservatives ignore emergency debate, cut aboriginal healing money

OTTAWA – Funding will end today for a program the government acknowledges to be “excellent” in assisting survivors of residential school trauma, despite an emotional six-hour emergency debate in Parliament last night called by the NDP.

“The cynicism to cut the Aboriginal Healing Foundation in the budget, then release a report the very next day that says what a fantastic program it is, smacks of a hypocrisy to the First Nations communities that I represent and those all across this country,” Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen told the House of Commons at midnight last night.

Cullen, who was on his feet several times to ask questions, also delivered a 10-minute speech in which he urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper to live up to commitments he made in the National Residential Schools Apology two years ago.

“The apology was meant to be followed by action. That is what we asked the Prime Minister for when we all sat in this place and listened to him apologize,” Cullen said.

“Now we find out the AHF, which my honourable colleague says is one of the best programs the government has ever run, is being cut at the same time the government maintains it wants to support the healing process.

“The way the government can support healing is to continue funding the AHF.”

Cullen said a vague reference by the government to have Health Canada take over the work of the AHF and focus on individual rather than family and community-based support is fraught with problems and a step in the wrong direction.

The decade-old AHF assists aboriginal people and communities cope with ongoing residential school trauma.  Funding expires at federal fiscal year-end today.

Six of the 17 BC-based AHF projects are in the Northwest, in Skidegate, Terrace, Kitwanga, Smithers and Fort St. James.  The program funds over 130 projects across Canada.

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Contact: Shelley Browne, 250-877-4142, Shelley@nathancullen.ca