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Indigenous games' funding at risk?

Alwyn Morris, the president of the Aboriginal Sports Circle, has also been following the progress of Bill C-12, the new sport bill that lacks explicit. committment to funding minority groups.

"All the way along, one of the things we said is when sport policies and acts are moved it always takes just a tremendous amount of effort to move the yardstick. By having the wording be a little more explicit in terms of this was our preference," he told Windspeaker on Jan. 27.

"We're working at this from a multi-track system in terms of dealing with government in trying to establish coherent policy and policy direction right across the country. So if you've got this, what we'll call very subtle wording that government 'may' avail themselves to 'something or 'may' act in a certain direction, we wanted it to be far more explicit. The government is committed to doing that. They say they're committed, but when it comes to an action from that commitment, this falls a little short, obviously.

Willie Littlechild, an Aboriginal lawyer from Alberta who is a former Conservative MP and current president of World Indigenous Nations Sports (WINSports), the only Indigenous sports organization in Canada that is formally recognized by the United Nations, blasted the government's tactics.

"I would agree with that Liberal Party member who's upset with this because it's not only for the entrenchment of minority rights but of Indigenous rights," he said.

"So what now appears to be happening is an exclusive club, not inclusive at all of every element of Canadian society, which it should be if we're going to have an opportunity to participate in mainstream sports," said Willie Littlechild

He pointed to the current shortage of recreational funding on reserve and suggested that is part of the cause of the social problems experienced in First Nations.

"I'm doing a justice review in Saskatchewan. I've been to the youth detention centres. I've been to just about all the jails in Saskatchewan. And the biggest signal that the youth themselves are saying is they need that kind of an outlet. They need that sport and recreation outlet. Some of them directly argue that they wouldn't be in that conflict with the law had they been given that opportunity," Littlechild said.

"The message we're getting now is the government is not willing to allocate resources for prevention through INAC or the Metis Interlocutor or through the sport minister, but they're quite willing to keep spending the $50-or $60-thousand a year to keep those young people in detention centres and jails. It's the wrong signal. Very, very wrong. I don't know what it would take to convince them they're headed in the wrong way except to put it in the legislation. Make it a requirement. Put it into the act itself, in a 'shall,' in a mandatory fashion. Not in a 'may' or discretionary fashion. That just confirms what's going on now."

He suggested the government's direction should be seen as a threat to the future of the North American Indigenous Games.

Morris said the fight will continue up to the final hour. He added that separate talks about commitments for the Indigenous games are also ongoing.

"We're sitting with ministers right now, both federally and provincially, dealing with the North American Indigenous Games. We're on the brink of establishing some very solid commitments, long-term commitments, and when we're dealing with the way the bill is reading; sure it's a concern," he said. "That's why we're pushing extremely hard now, saying ministers committed themselves prior to the bill to establish a very solid, working funding formula for the North American Indigenous Games. It's a previous commitment of ministers regardless of what it's going to say in the sport act. If the government doesn't want to live up to commitments that it's made then that's a public debate that needs to happen."

He added that Aboriginal people should be concerned about where the government is going.

"We all should be concerned about it. It's going to take our next steps in this process in terms of keeping the ministers committed to what their decisions were. We've helped make that happen. It's evolving and it's getting close. Governments may say, well because of the new law... well, no I don't think so. I don't think we would let that off that easily," the Mohawk Olympic gold medalist said.
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Title Annotation:North American Indigenous Games
Author:Barnsley, Paul
Publication:Wind Speaker
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Feb 1, 2003
Previous Article:You count.
Next Article:First Peoples Hall opens at national museum.

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