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Edmonton launches newest Urban Aboriginal Strategy.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Edmonton

Federal, provincial and municipal governments contributed $450,000 in mid-March to the country's newest Urban Aboriginal Strategy organization.

Officials from all levels of government helped launch Wicihitowin (a Cree word meaning "help each other") Circle of Shared Responsibility and Stewardship in Edmonton. Edmonton becomes the thirteenth city in Canada and third in Alberta (strategy organizations also exist in Calgary and Lethbridge) to use this collaborative approach to address issues facing its urban Aboriginal population.

Laurie Hawn, Edmonton Centre Member of Parliament, noted that Urban Aboriginal Strategy programs, initiated by the federal government in 2007, were unique to each community. The strategy involves a number of federal government departments including Indian and Northern Affairs, Human Resources Development, Western Economic Diversification and Heritage.

Joy Sinclair, president of Wicihitowin, said the organization was one way of improving the lives of Aboriginals calling Edmonton home. And this new approach will allow Natives, Metis and Inuit the opportunity to respond to priorities they have set.

"This will ensure our voice is heard and that we (are) part of our solution," said Sinclair.

There are approximately 50,000 Aboriginal people living in Edmonton, representing the second highest population in a Canadian capital city (second to Winnipeg). Approximately one-quarter million of Alberta's population is Aboriginal and 63 per cent of those live in urban centres.

With the provincial government contributing $190,000 to the initiative ($5,000 more than the federal government), Gene Zwozdesky, minister of Aboriginal relations, praised not only a "better way of addressing issues" but Premier Ed Stelmach's vision in creating a self-standing ministry for Aboriginal affairs.

Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel echoed Zwozdesky's sentiments.

"Over the last couple of years, there's been tremendous change in government attitude toward the Aboriginal community," said Mandel.

The city provided Wicihitowin with $75,000.

Government funding will allow Wicihitowin to open an office in Edmonton. While the organization will provide administrative support it will not deliver programs and services. Instead it will help coordinate groups that are already delivering services to the urban Aboriginal population, work to avoid duplication of service, help to acquire funding, and aid in the completion of major projects.

The Urban Aboriginal Strategy is a community-based initiative developed by the federal government to improve social and economic opportunities of Aboriginal people living in urban centres. Through the strategy, the federal government partners with the private sector, provincial and municipal governments, and community and Aboriginal organizations. These partnerships support projects that respond to local priorities and advance the UAS national priority areas of improving life skills, promoting job training, skills and entrepreneurship, and supporting Aboriginal women, children and families.

BY SHARI NARINE

Sweetgrass Writer

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Title Annotation:EDMONTON NEWS
Author:Narine, Shari
Publication:Alberta Sweetgrass
Geographic Code:1CALB
Date:Apr 1, 2009
Words:442
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