Government spending cuts impact Indigenous programming in Ontario: OCRCC Responds

The Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC) responds with concern to recent government spending cuts impacting Indigenous programming in Ontario.

  • In arts, a fund for Indigenous culture that was set up in response to calls for action from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has seen a $2.25 million cut. The Indigenous Culture Fund was set up last year and is administered by the Ontario Arts Council. It supports First Nations, Inuit and Métis community-based cultural projects. 
  • In education, the Ontario government is cutting $25 million in funding for specialized programs in elementary and secondary schools across the province. The cut will mean the end of a number of initiatives for at-risk youth, including Focus on Youth, for example, was set up to provide activities for students in schools in areas that are considered under-served by other agencies; and a program called Indigenous Focused Collaborative Inquiry, which supports educators to integrate Indigenous content into their classrooms. This approach improves educational outcomes and educational experiences for all learners. 

At OCRCC, we know that the impacts of colonization and the marginalization of Indigenous communities continue today. For example, we know that Indigenous women aged 25 to 44 are five times more likely than other Canadian women of the same age to die as a result of violence[1]

Poverty, poor health and a lack of social supports continue to impact Indigenous communities decades after this foundation of inequity was laid. Today, the public education systems that Canadians experience today reflect the marginalization of Indigenous people – most often through narratives in which Indigenous people, values, contributions to Canada, labour and culture are either minimised or completely invisibilized.

Important, targeted programs, like those above, were intentionally created to acknowledge these harms – and make way for building a more equitable Canada.

In 2009, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada began a multi-year process to listen to Survivors, communities and others affected by the Residential School system.The resulting collection of statements, documents and other materials now forms recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission[2].  Programs like the Indigenous Culture Fund and the Indigenous Focused Collaborative Inquiry were among Ontario’s efforts to address reconciliation.

Our government has an important role in recognizing the impacts of this history, and implementing concrete strategies to address these errors. For this reason, we are greatly concerned about the cuts initiated by our current Ontario government.

OCRCC stands behind our community allies, including Indigenous arts, education and social services, in asking that these important programs be reinstated.

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[1] 2004 Amnesty International report: Stolen Sisters: A Human Rights Response to Discrimination and Violence Against Indigenous Women in Canada.

[2] Ibid.

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