Future of 3 youth wellness programs in Arviat in jeopardy over funding
Mayor says $400,000 annually helps kids in the community; Main says money still earmarked, but distribution being discussed
Some of Arviat’s youth programs, such as a school breakfast program and summer camp, could lose their funding after April 1.
In an interview Tuesday, Mayor Joe Savikataaq Jr. said the hamlet received a letter Feb. 14 from the territory’s Health Department stating Arviat will no longer receive $400,000 annually to fund wellness programs in the community.
He said this will especially affect children there, since much of the funding is put toward a school breakfast program, the youth drop-in centre and an annual summer camp.
“We give our schools $100,000 annually to run breakfast programs,” Savikataaq Jr. told Nunatsiaq News.
“Our drop-in centre on average sees up to 100 kids per day six days a week because it’s closed on Sundays. And our summer camp sees up to 180 kids every year, and we feed them during summer camp.”
Joe Savikataaq Sr., the former premier and current MLA for Arviat-South, has also raised the issue in the legislative assembly.
Savikataaq Sr. questioned Nunavut Health Minister John Main on Feb. 22, the first day of the winter sitting, asking for clarification on how and why Arviat will lose its funding for youth wellness programs.
Main responded, citing the Government of Nunavut’s 10-year territorial health plan, developed with Health Canada and funded through Indigenous Services Canada’s community-based health promotion and disease prevention program.
He said the agreement runs from 2017-2027 and total funding for community wellness programs across Nunavut is $272.6 million over the 10 years, or roughly $27 million annually.
The Government of Nunavut is “the administrator of the funds, but we don’t set the terms of the funds and how they need to be used,” according to Main.
He said the $400,000 for community wellness programs continues to be earmarked for Arviat. However, changes in the way the funding will be distributed, and which programs in the community will receive it, are being discussed.
“In terms of responses to conversations that are ongoing, I’m unable to say whether or not [community wellness] funding will indeed cease,” Main said in the assembly.
“In any case, the funding that’s allocated for Arviat will remain allocated for Arviat.”
Mayor Savikataaq Jr said the hamlet is looking into alternative sources to fund its wellness programs.
If youth wellness programs such as the drop-in centre and summer camp were ended, it would deeply affect the community, he said.
“At the end of the day, [this funding is] for the kids,” Savikataaq Jr. said. “There’s a very high youth population here, which we support greatly.”
“We are committed to keep running these programs that currently are without the funding that we’re getting from the Department of Health,” he added, “but we’re not sure how much longer we can continue to operate without this funding.”