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Healing foundation shutters its doors at month's end.


After almost 14 years of receiving funding from the Aboriginal Healing Foundation in order to provide quality service for residential school and intergenerational survivors, the Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society, which operates a substance abuse treatment centre on Vancouver Island, is back to piece-meal funding.

They have not been able to accept any new registrants for the program since May 2013.

"The Aboriginal Healing Foundation provided adequate budget to deliver excellent programming," said society Executive Director Yvonne Rigsby-Jones. "The closure is really devastating."

Tsow-Tun Le Lum used the last of its funding from AHF in December 2013. And like other projects, including the 11-healing centres throughout the country that received AHF funding, they will now rely on lor dollars from other sources, such as Health Canada, Correctional Services Canada, or provincial governments. And the mandates will change as they will no longer strictly serve residential school survivors.

At the end of September, the AHF will cease to exist. This past year has seen the organization, which set up its operations in 1998, work with a skeleton staff, said Executive Director Mike DeGagne, who already has a position elsewhere. AHF will maintain a web presence until September 2017, which will allow public access to its resources.

DeGagne said the AHF will he passing its materials, documents and in-depth research to the Legacy of Hope Foundation in accordance to an agreement reached between the two organizations.

The Legacy of Hope Foundation is mandated to carry out public education about residential schools. AHF was established as part of the federal government's response to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People's final report in 1998 with $350 million to support community-based healing initiatives for Aboriginal people impacted by physical and sexual abuse in residential schools. Over the years. AHF's total budget was topped up by $165 million plus interest.

DeGagne expects to hand over approximately $500,000 in unused revenue to the Legacy of Hope Foundation, which should allow that foundation to operate without any other funding for at least two years.

The discontinuation of AHF will have an impact on residential school survivors and their descendants, said DeGagne. Along with the loss of high quality new research is the loss of highly trained employees.

"We had an incredible network of hundreds and hundreds of workers in the community that were trained and brought along to use their skills to help survivors," he said. "Those people dispersed everywhere and there isn't a focus anymore for residential school issues."

That will certainly be the case with Tsow-Tun Le Lum, said Rigsby-Jones. The centre will no longer be able to offer its fiveweek residential program for residential school survivors and their descendants, which included a one-week intensive session with a psycho-trauma therapist.

Now, new Tsow-Tun Le Lum programming will focus on mental health and addictions, such as alcohol and drugs. Family violence and suicide ideation will also be included in programming.

"I believe a lot of it is still rooted in the residential school experience," said Rigsby-Jones.

For this coming year, Tsow-Tun Le Lum received funding to continue the traditional and cultural aspects in its programming. But unlike when the society was receiving annual funding from AHF, there is no guarantee that next year's funding will allow for the same inclusion.

"All the research done verifies how important this is. People really benefit when tradition and culture is included in the teachings," said Rigsby-Jones.

If AHF cannot be revived, DeGagne said the model that it operated under needs to be used. AHF received $510 million from the federal government and awarded $535 million to the community to fund residential school survivor-related projects.

"We were able to manage the money and grow the funds through investments. We gave every dollar and more to the community and we were able to exist and do research just out of the interest," he said.

DeGagne adds that AHF's operational model should also be followed as it "operated in a real consultative way with First Nations, Metis and Inuit."

By Shari Narine

Windspeaker Contributor
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Title Annotation:health
Author:Narine, Shari
Date:Sep 1, 2014
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